Posts Tagged ‘Belgium’

Belgian King ‘Regrets’ Atrocities of Ancestor, the ‘Snake of the Congo”

July 1, 2020
Belgian King Apologizes for Ancestor, the 'Snake of the Congo

Image: “King Leopold II of Belgium, Snake of the Congo,” Edward Linley Sambourne, Punch, 1906

On Tuesday, the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgian King Philippe expressed his regrets to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi for the atrocities commited by King Leopold II, who held the Congo as a personal fiefdom from 1885 to 1908 and killed approximately 10 million of its people, many of whom were maimed and tortured. King Philippe didn’t actually apologize.

The atrocities comitted under King Leopold II were documented by African American missionary William Henry Sheppard, who brought a Kodak camera to the Congo in 1900. The “regrets” of King Philippe were motivated by Belgium’s ongoing Black Lives Matter protests which targeted the country’s many monuments to King Leopold II and his generals.

“Beside Leopold, Nero, Caligula, Attilo, Torquemada, Genghis Khan and such killers of men are mere amateurs.” Mark Twain, New York World, December 3, 1905.


“Belgium’s King Sends Letter of Regret Over Colonial Past in Congo,” Monika Pronczuk and Megan Specia, New York Times

“Belgian king expresses ‘deepest regrets’ for brutal colonial rule,” Jennifer Rankin and Jason Burke, The Guardian


Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Toots Thielemans, 1922 — 2016

August 24, 2016

Musician and composer Toots Thielemans, who brought the chromatic harmonica into the realm of jazz, died Monday in his native Belgium. He was 94.

Active in Europe as a jazz guitarist, Mr. Thielemans moved to the U.S. in 1952. While playing guitar in the George Shearing Quintet he began introducing occasional harmonica and whistling numbers (the whistling recording of his composition “Bluesette” became a hit in 1962). From 1959 on he was in demand as a harmonica player for recording sessions, soundtrack work for films, and television theme songs. He played on many pop records but his first love was always jazz.

Often a soloist with big bands, we feel his best work was with small jazz combos, where the intimate tone of his chosen instrument is most striking. Jean-Baptiste “Toots” Thielemans was named a Baron by King Albert II of Belgium in 2001 and honored with an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship in 2009.


Foreign Minister Salutes Belgium’s African Past — in Blackface

March 20, 2015

Foreign Minister Salutes Belgium's African Past -- in Blackface
Last week Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders participated in a local Brussels festival. He was in blackface. Ah, the subtitles of diplomacy ….

Les Noirauds (blacks) festival, known as Zwarte in Dutch has aided a childcare charity named Conservatoire Africain since 1876, but the children in question live in Brussels. 1876 is also when King Leopold II started maneuvering with other European powers for a piece of the African Continent. That’s why the Belgian paraders first blacked up: colonial fever.

King Leopold got a piece of Africa in 1885, not for Belgium but as his personal possession. He called it the Congo Free State (État Indépendant du Congo) and ruthlessly exploited its resources and people for his personal enrichment. His mercenaries forced inhabitants into the jungle to harvest wild rubber, and those who refused or missed quotas were killed or tortured. Millions died.


Horseback Shrimp Fishers of Oostduinkerke

April 30, 2014

The horseback shrimp fishing tradition of Oostduinkerke, Belgium, now on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.


“The shrimp fishermen on horseback of Oostduinkerke have been added to the world list of intangible cultural heritage,” NAVIGO


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Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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