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Zooming in / Zooming out. On Colonial Monuments


What does it mean today to have our public space lined with historical monuments to the colonial regime and the individuals that instated it? What are the possible artistic, institutional, and societal scenarios for dealing with this contested heritage?

From 2020 onwards, the Middelheim Museum is initiating a series of projects on colonial history and the related monuments that adorn the streets of Antwerp. These projects are part of the city’s policy to study and make accessible the meaning and history of its public heritage.

First in this series is Zooming In / Zooming Out: On Colonial Monuments, a symposium gathering scholars, artists and cultural workers to reflect upon historical attitudes, healing gestures, artists’ responses, and institutional choices.



  • 12:30 pm – Doors open; On display throughout the day: The Copy (2019), a sculpture by Bie Michels, Antwerp-based visual artist
  • 1 pm – Welcome by Herman Van Goethem, Dean of the University of Antwerp & Sara Weyns, Director Middelheim Museum, Antwerp
  • 1:15 pm – Past Empire Present: A history of Belgium’s attitude towards colonial monuments from 1960 to today by Matthew Stanard, Professor at Berry College, Georgia, U.S.A. and author of The Leopard, the Lion, and the Cock. Colonial Memories and Monuments in Belgium (2019, LUP)
  • 2 pm – Healing and Heritage by Sorana Munsya, psychologist, writer and independent curator
  • 2:30 pm – Artist Bie Michels, together with Middelheim Museum Exhibitions Curator Pieter Boons and historian Prof. dr. Marnix Beyen, discusses the differences, similarities and strategies for dealing with contested heritage in the recent case of a 1953 colonial monument in Mechelen by sculptor Lode Eyckermans
  • 3 pm – Break
  • 3:30 pm – Congoville: on postcolonial traces and commemoration in contemporary art practices by Sandrine Colard, Assistant Professor of Art History, Rutgers University-Newark, USA, Artistic Director of the 2019 Lubumbashi Biennale, and guest curator of the forthcoming exhibition Congoville at Middelheim Museum, Antwerp
  • 4 pm – The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Belgium’s largest colonial monument, inside and out by Bambi Ceuppens, Senior Researcher and Curator, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren
  • 4:30 pm – Round table discussion with all speakers, introduced by Aminata Ndow & Mohamed Barrie, co-organisers Black History Month
  • 5:30 pm – Reception generously offered by the University of Antwerp

This symposium is convened by Pieter Boons (Curator Middelheim Museum) and Samuel Saelemakers (Curator Public Art Collection, Antwerp), who will be moderating the day’s program. This event is a part of Black History Month Belgium 2020.

The symposium is kindly hosted by the University of Antwerp.



CANCELLED Symposium ZOOMING IN / ZOOMING OUT. On Colonial Monuments

  • Friday 20 March 2020, 1-6 PM
  • Venue: Universiteit Antwerp, Campus Middelheim, Block A, Middelheimlaan 1, 2020 Antwerp
  • Language: English
  • Free with registration

Documentation and a report on the symposium will be made available online soon after the event.

This symposium is sold out.

Photo: Bronze elements belonging to a monument to Baron Dhanis by sculptor Frans Joris, inaugurated in Antwerp in 1913. The monument is no longer in place and these elements, along with the figure of a nude black woman, have been lost, while the figures of Barons Dhanis and a surrendering Arabic slave trader are currently kept in the open air storage yard of the Middelheim Museum.

In the spotlight

On 13 March 2020, Bie Michels video work (Pas) Mon Pays Part I & II (2019) is screened at De Cinema, Antwerp. Click here for more information