City Hall in Halle, Source: Depositphotos

Belgian city ‘decolonises’ its public park

Belgian city ‘decolonises’ its public park

Halle will take a King Leopold II bust off of its plinth and place it on the ground

Last week, local authorities in the Belgian city of Halle announced a new initiative to decolonise the city’s Albert Park. The measures were announced during a special event titled ‘Congo Fest’ (Congo feest) and included actions like taking the bust of Leopold II off its pedestal and placing it on the ground.

According to Mayor Marc Snoeck, the initiative aims to reconcile Belgium’s bloody past as a colonial power in the Congo with its present and future. A good place to start that process is in public spaces like Albert Park – the same places that used to celebrate that past.

Moreover, the concept for the park also incorporates some of the local aspirations for the future, as it includes increasing the greenery in the park and using it creatively. This would highlight authorities’ newfound commitment to sustainability and climate action.

Brussels also launched a process of decolonising public spaces at the start of 2022, spearheaded by State Secretary for Urbanism and Heritage Pascal Smet.

Dethroning the mementoes of colonialism

According to a statement by the city, in 2020, Halle decided to start a decolonisation process, in collaboration with the Agency for Integration and Civic Integration (Agentschap Integratie en Inburgering).

The measures included placing the bust of Leopold II next to its plinth and to install greenery on the statue celebrating Belgium’s colonial pioneers, which is supposed to overgrow and obscure the column. Additionally, local authorities will set up a digital column in the park with more information about the country’s colonial past and its impact on current society.

Mayor Marc Snoeck was quoted by the VRT explaining that to him changing the monuments would have the most significant impact on historical and cultural perceptions. The mayor pointed out that removing both monuments would be retrograde in his opinion, as it would serve to erase the past, sweeping it under the rug.

Instead, Mayor Snoeck explained that changing these sites would serve to show younger generations the changing times and reflect changing values. Additionally, ‘dethroning’ King Leopold II’s bust would be much more of a symbolic gesture than just removing it.  

A statue of King Leopold II in Brussels, smeared with paint during
the George Floyd protests in Europe
Source: Depositphtoos 



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