Let the party begin
Antwerp city planners appear to have learned their lesson. Due to a lack of public input, their big Oosterweel viaduct plan that would have joined the left bank of the Scheldt with the Antwerp Ring is imploding. In order to avoid unexpected (and highly successful) public protest this time around, the city hired a communications strategy team for its Scheldt Quays project.
The city of Antwerp coaxes its people to the quays
The team has so far been exemplary in holding events and information sessions to not only let the people know what the city wants to do, but to get the community’s input as well.
And now Antwerp is pulling out its big guns: KAAiLAND, a three-month long arts and culture festival that will bring the citizens en masse to the city’s waterfront. You can hear the wheels turning in the minds of city planners: Once you give the population a taste of what you can do, they will want more.
In this case, what’s good for the city is good for the people. And, in true Flemish fashion, the events of KAAiLAND run the gamut from the traditional to the folksy to the beautifully absurd. It all starts this weekend and goes clear through until 21 June.
KAAiLAND opens with a bang, combining food, fire and big band jazz. Dinner is cooked up by top Dutch chef Jan Van der Heyden, and you’re served at tables in a theatre setting, while pyrotechnics and video projections by artist Boris Van der Avoort provide the lighting. The Brussels Jazz Orchestra takes the stage, featuring South African jazz singer Tutu Puoane.
The KAAiLAND Expo is part art, part information. You’ll learn all you need to know about the Scheldt Quays Master Plan, which is mingled with photographs of the ghosts of Port of Antwerp past. But rather than just images of old boats and docks, there are wonderfully expressive portraits of 19th-century workers, standing in front of barrels, arms surly crossed, and the women who found homes and jobs along the harbour.
Among the smattering of theatre at KAAiLAND, is Braakland (Wasteland) by the Dutch theatre group Dakar. Directed by Lotte van den Berg, who is now with Antwerp’s Het Toneelhuis, it’s an outdoor performance with nine characters wandering about on a forgotten piece of earth. The Antwerp quays, perhaps? (Don’t worry, it has been performed many times before and was not commissioned by city planners.)
The other highlight is How Do You Like My Landscape? by Flemish theatre maker Manah Depauw and artist Bernard Van Eeghem. Their little, pristine landscape model peppered with plastic animals is an idyllic setting – until the beast from within comes to the surface. A darkly hilarious series of imaginative vignettes re-telling the story of Genesis and the history of mankind. Highly recommended.
Where are we all going to live once the polar ice caps melt, and our cities are all flooded is the question proposed by “Tent Village”, an architecture/art project, the result of a collaboration between Belgium and several other western European countries. Big bubble living spaces on stilts will be put to multiple use during the festival, including exhibition space for ideas for temporary housing for refugees and victims of natural disasters. This area on the Cockerill Quay also hosts free concerts every Saturday night and is home to De Lekkermakerij, an eatery/theatre concept by the inventive art collective Time Circus.