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A Guide to Belgian Days in Riga 0

Marta Dzene

The Belgian Embassy in Riga is proud to announce the “Belgian Days in Riga” event, which takes place between 14 and 24 November. During these days everybody will have possibility to attend a variety of events ranging from Comic Strip contest, short film preview, design exhibition, culinary workshops, special Belgian menus, to classical painting exhibitions and baroque music concerts. They all will be devoted to Belgian culture and cuisine.

The main goal of  “Belgian Days in Riga” is to make Belgian culture, traditions more visible in Latvia and strengthen the cooperation between our two countries-Latvia and Belgium.

Belgian Ambassador to Latvia, Mr. Frank Arnauts, tells why Belgium's relationship with Latvia is important, and which Belgian Days (BD) event definitely shouldn't be missed.

Why are BD being held this autumn?

It is all about good old friends meeting up again.

The relationship between Latvia and Belgium – in particular, between their port cities – has been quite intense for many centuries. This was not only the case during the Hansa period, but also during the decades after the independence of Latvia – during the 20s and 30s of the last century, when Belgium was among Latvia's top five trading partners.

History will prove that the decades of lesser contact, which occurred after the Second World War, were only an exception, and that our bilateral relationship is now as thriving as ever, and at all levels.

The  “Belgian Days in Riga” are organized to demonstrate how good and intense our relations are, and we want to make sure that we keep up the momentum. I am convinced that promoting our cultural image will not only boost exchanges between cultural spheres, but also people to people contacts, in general. And if we know each other better, I am sure that we will also do more business with each other, which is also good for growth and jobs.

Which events would you suggest to readers to attend?

Since these are the first  “Belgian Days in Riga” since 1926, they will start with a shot of designer adrenaline. We are wholeheartedly welcoming De Invasie / Riga  (The Invasion) and their warriors, who are eager to conquer Riga. De Invasie is a dynamic platform in Belgium that supports young Flemish designers. Together with the team “Sampling”, they will bring strong Belgian design talent to the capital of Latvia. They call themselves Warriors because that is what they are – fierce and ready to show their powerful creations to the world.

The exhibition at the Latvian Academy of Art contains young Flemish fashion, graphic design, illustration, jewelry … mostly emerging talent, but also two well-known Belgian fashion design offices.

The Riga Bourse Museum will host two great exhibitions. The major one, titled “Parallels and Impressions”, will illustrate the influence of Belgian art on Latvian art during the 20s and 30s of the last century. Key in this process was the collection of paintings which Lazdiņš, the Latvian Ambassador in Brussels at the time, assembled as a model for the development of a national Latvian art scene.

As an annex to “Parallells and Impressions”, and also my personal pet project, is a special exhibition devoted to the Bourse's collection of the works of Armand Rassenfosse, who was, apparently, a favorite of Ambassador Lazdiņš as well. A century ago, Rassenfosse was a famous portrait painter of female beauty – often of “femme fatales” – which is also the title of the exhibition.

As part of the Bach Festival, the world-famous baroque choir Collegium Vocale Gent, conducted by Philippe Van Herreweghe, will perform. I am particularly happy that the concert will take place in the charming St. John's Church, which I think is the best venue for classical music in Riga.

Taking into account that Belgium is a leading comic strip nation, we then had the idea that we should also do something for the promotion of comic strip culture in Latvia. So, in partnership with Kusj and the Belgian Luxembourg Latvian Business Club, we organized a grand Comic Strip Competition on the theme of “Brussels sprouts”. Much to our surprise and delight, 77 Latvian artists between the ages of 16 and 50 participated. An exhibition of the ten best works is on display on the second floor of the Latvian Academy of Art and in the restaurant “Trīs Pavāri”.

Could BD turn into an annual tradition?

For autumn of 2014, we're planning a different kind of Belgian Days – a Belgian Days that will be based around a multi-modal and multimedia café called “Café Europe”. It will be located in the middle of the Spīķeri Quarter and be part of the Riga 2014 Cultural Capital Program. The details are being prepared by RIXC from Riga, and their Belgian partner, “Technocité”, which is based in the Belgian city of Mons. Mons will be the next Cultural Capital after Riga, in 2015.

The focus will be on new media, but there will also be room for contemporary music and others things.

In 2015, the cultural flow will change directions, and Latvia will display all of its artistic assets in Brussels and other Belgian cities, as part of the program for Latvia’s first Presidency of the European Union.