Walloon culture

Too little known, sometimes too modest, a pluralistic culture, in general terms – Walloon culture has its share of interesting features. Making this known to a broader audience was the purpose behind the publication of Histoire culturelle de la Wallonie (1), the product of collaboration between 32 researchers. This book is the first to retrace the evolution and the richness of Walloon culture, from its earliest days up to the present time. There are articles about photography, theatre, the cinema, museums, publishing and literature, and much more.

The whole world knows about the Dardenne brothers, whose films about working-class life in Belgium feature the gritty, post-industrial landscape around their native Seraing. There are also paintings and designs by the Namur artist Félicien Rops, whose famous “Temptation of St. Anthony” and “La Dame au cochon-Pornokrates” (Lady leading a pig-Pornokrates) influenced many artists. We could also mention the genius of author Georges Simenon or the creativity of Franco Dragone, the unquestioned fame of the Charleroi comic book publisher Dupuis and their competitor, Casterman of Tournai. We could talk about the perennial popularity of the Mardi Gras carnival of Binche or that of the ducasse (traditional village festival) of Mons.

But does the cultural heritage of Wallonia consist of these few illustrious examples from yesterday and today? The cultural history of Wallonia is not as well known as it should be, and it is richer and more complex than people imagine.

cover-Hist-CultThis book, plainly entitled Histoire culturelle de la Wallonie amounts almost to an encyclopaedia with 32 separate contributors. Historians, sociologists, linguists, musicologists, experts concerning the publishing industry, the arts, the theatre, the cinema, photography – all are represented here. Half of the contributors are connected to the University of Liège, which provided a special area for the research for the book. The supervisor was the Liège historian Bruno Demoulin, senior lecturer at the university.

The task involved in the publication was not small. Apart from the work of the militant Léopold Génicot, who in 1973 (that is, three years after the governmental reform that produced the three linguistic “communities” of Belgium and the goal of dividing the country into three corresponding “regions”, the first step toward the Federal system in existence today) directed the publication of the first Histoire de la Wallonie (History of Wallonia) (2) , and apart from the six volumes of the encyclopaedia published two years later by Hervé Hasquin, Rita Lejeune and Jacques Stiennon entitled La Wallonie. Le pays et les hommes (Wallonia, a country and its people)(3)  and Histoire de la Wallonie (History of Wallonia) (4) , by B. Demoulin and J.-L. Kupper, there was no specific work devoted to Walloon culture.

“In 2010, on the occasion of the 180th anniversary of Belgium, some of my colleagues and I , who had already worked together to produce a book (5),  became aware that there was no book of this kind,” said Bruno Demoulin. “So we contacted the directors of the Fonds Mercator, who were interested in the idea, and we formed a group for the project.” The work soon began.

(1) Bruno DEMOULIN and al., Histoire culturelle de la Wallonie, Bruxelles, Fonds Mercator, 2012.
(2) Published at éditions Privat de Toulouse.
(3) Published at éditions La renaissance du Livre, 1975.
(4) Published at éditions Privat de Toulouse en 2004.
(5) Bruno DEMOULIN and al., Liège et le palais des Princes-Évêques, Bruxelles, Fonds Mercator, 2008.

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