Contemporary Belgium's cultural mosaic
BY MPHO MFENYANA
There is no question that the presence of minorities in Belgium has brought an explosion of colour, flavour and multiculturalism into the country. Minorities make up around six percent of Belgium's population of just over 10.4 million. They have either immersed themselves in the Dutch speaking, Flanders, the French speaking, Walloonia or the cosmopolitan bilingual capital, Brussels. The following profiles give a glimpse into some of the people of colour who call the country home.
Marie Daulne, singer
This poised singer of Congolese and Belgian heritage was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and is as authentic and rooted as her music. Hungry for a new and original sound, she began her career 20 years ago with the group Zap Mama. They went on to create a distinct sound with influences that Daulne describes as zapping between the rhythms of Africa and the world. The mother of two has recorded a number of albums, including her latest offering, Recreation, and collaborated with artists such as Common, Eryka Badu and The Roots amongst many others. One of the highlights of her career was opening for the late Miriam Makeba, she said.
Erica Horton, clothing designer
The enchanting Ms. Norton is as beautiful as she is driven to change the face of fashion in Belgium. A native of Texas, Erica Horton arrived in Belgium 12 years ago, lived here for seven years, returned to the U.S. and was pulled back by the forces of an unsaturated and less commercialised fashion scene in Brussels five years ago. The 40-year-old, mother of one, who is fluent in French, knew that with sheer determination she could leave a mark on the Belgian fashion scene. She started her career as a fashion designer for one of the country's leading fashion outlets, C and A, and has now opened her own studio and boutique, Kimone, in Brussels.
James Ololo, publisher of Mamboleo, a newspaper for the Diaspora
People of colour in Belgium were given a voice in 1999 when James Ololo decided to start the first newspaper here for the Diaspora, Mamboleo. This came after an uproar in the community at the killing of Sémira Adamu, a young refugee from Nigeria, at the hands of the Belgian police. Ololo, 47, moved to Belgium 25 years ago from his homeland, Kenya to study visual communication and design at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Mamboleo is distributed for free once a month and publishes its stories in the original language in which they were received (usually English, French and Dutch).
Linda Raymond-Dougher, international political economist
If you need an expert on European directives and policies in the fields of copyright and intellectual property, leisure, education, as well as European competition, the astute Linda Raymond-Dougher is the right person to talk to. This 45-year-old of British West Indian heritage has advised global companies and institutions as an International political economist and also as a legal consultant and researcher. She came to Belgium 10 years ago to work for an American company as the director of finance and administration and stayed on as an independent consultant. She speaks all three of Belgium's official languages, French, Dutch and German.
Charles William ‘Koor' Hargrove Jr., artist
Charles Hargrove, affectionately known as ‘Koor,' had one of his best years in 2009. His exhibitions broke records at Paris' Grand Palais and Fondation Cartier simultaneously. He also had four solo exhibitions in New York City, Roermond, NL, Paris and two in Brussels. Hargrove, who is of Guinea and US Virgin Island descent, began his relationship with Belgium in 1985 when he was invited by a gallery to have a solo art exhibition. He went on to exhibit all over Europe, but always found himself back in Belgium because of his art dealer; so much that in 1988 he made it his second home. The 46-year-old Hargrove, who is fluent in both French and Dutch, lives in Belgium with his partner and two children.