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Cultural Diplomacy

One of the key functions of the Delegation of Flanders is to promote Flemish art and culture in Southern Africa and to encourage new and ongoing cultural exchanges between Flanders and the region.

The cultural landscape in Flanders is a fascinating one - both “state of the art” and diverse. Be it in the performing arts, visual arts, music, architecture, design, gastronomy, fashion or literature, Flanders is the home of numerous outstanding artists and high quality art institutes and organisations.

Many prominent artists in Flanders have had a lasting impact on the arts scene and have inspired painters from around the world. One only has to think of artists ranging from Jan Van Eyck, Hans emling, Pieter Bruegel I, Peter Paul Rubens, Sir Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens to, more recently, James Ensor, Constant Permeke and Magritte to realise the tremendous contribution by Flanders to the cultural heritage of the arts. Contemporary artists such as Luc Tuymans and Jan Fabre paved the way and developed a visual language that strongly influences the visual culture of their and future generations. Today, new generations of artists, curators and museum directors are exhibited worldwide and are omnipresent in museums, art centres and international biennales.

The contemporary performing arts scene in Flanders is a dynamic landscape of high-quality artists and venues creating theatre and dance in all its forms. The driving force behind this dynamism is rooted in the 1980s, when globally influential theatre-makers such as Jan Fabre, Jan Lauwers, Jan Decorte, Ivo Van Hove and Guy Cassiers and choreographers such as Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alain Platel and Wim Vandekeybus flooded the field with innovative choreography and theatre, crafting a signature tradition. They inspired new generations of groundbreaking artists. Performing artists in Flanders today create a wealth of hugely diverse performances, from repertory theatre and dance to site-specific performance. They are open to other disciplines and often integrate new media, visual arts, live music and contemporary writing. Their work is rooted in a rich international practice of worldwide presentation and co-operation.

Flanders is also music. More than 280 festivals take place every year in a variety of styles, being it rock (Rock Werchter), dance (Tomorrowland), jazz (Ghent Jazz and Jazz Middelheim) or early and classical music (Laus Polyphoniae). In recent years, many musicians and bands from Flanders have become popular across the borders. The architectural scene of Flanders and Brussels has become one of the most vital in Europe. Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels are high-profile tourist destinations exploiting the international attention for contemporary architecture. Moreover, architects from Flanders are frequently invited by internationally renowned art venues such as the Biennale of Venice and the Oslo Architecture TriĆ«nnale to serve as curators or make artistic contributions. Architects from Flanders reveal that architecture’s contribution to contemporary Flanders is not in the provision of iconic buildings, but in the careful, yet imaginative handling of the building programme and construction techniques.

The Literature of Flanders has a proud past and present, and a promising future. Flanders can reference a rich literary heritage and produces some of the finest Dutch-language literature today. The international acclaim for translations of prose, poetry, (illustrated) youth and children’s literature, graphic novels, literary non-fiction, and theatre texts has risen sharply over the past decades. In addition to its narrative tradition, comics and illustrated children’s books are a distinct and a well-known art form in Flanders and abroad. Drawing upon the Belgian tradition, (Tintin, Gaston and so forth) comic artists from Flanders are developing their craft into art. This same development applies to illustrators from Flanders, who re-new, adapt and expand techniques established by our world-famous artists since the Middle Ages.

The relatively recent explosion in creativity and production in the Audiovisual sector has been recognised with Oscar nominations, European Film Awards, an Emmy Award, and honours at numerous international festivals. Driving this newly found vitality is a framework of incentives and other mechanisms that nurture local talent and make productions possible that reach a wider, international audience. Creativity in Flanders also benefits from a thriving services sector, with several visual effects and digital post-production houses based in the region becoming significant international players, praised for their craftsmanship and their ability to innovate and to recruit talent from abroad.

Flanders is a prominent player in the world of design, from industrial and graphic to jewellery and ceramics, as well as enjoying a strong representation in applied arts. This rich tradition and excellence of design in Flanders is found in its various academies, design exhibitions and organisations, as well as design museums and centres such as those in Antwerp and Ghent. Flanders exudes design and demands only the best from its designers.

Belgian fashion design is marked by its quality, innovation and high-level craftsmanship, and is recognised and celebrated around the world. The internationally renowned Antwerp Six, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp in the 1980s, are still highly productive, both in Belgium and internationally. Several of the Six are fashion leaders with their own labels, such as Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck and Dirk Van Saene. Raf Simons, though he did not study fashion primarily, has become Flanders’ most renowned fashion designer. Younger graduates such as Haider Ackermann and A.F. Vandervorst have also made their mark on the world stage.

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