Anti-woke backlash sparks controversy up in Antwerp

The City of Antwerp has decided that four historic paintings must once again embellish the staircase of the Arenberg Theatre.  Since November, following renovation work, four contemporary photos by Mous Lamrabat, a famous photographer, had been hanging there including one of a woman wearing a headscarf. They will now be replaced says culture alderman Ait Daoud.

Antwerp alderman for culture Nabilla Ait Daoud (Flemish nationalist) has now decided the photos need to be replaced by their 19th century predecessors.  The photos will be displayed on the first and ground floors.

Earlier Luk Lemmens, a member of the provincial executive and member of the theatre’s board for the Flemish nationalist party, had pressed for the traditional paintings’ return: “I can’t suppress the impression that they are trying to wipe out our history under pressure from a small group of intellectuals and the woke culture”.

Mr Lemmens was keen to stress he wasn’t opposed to diversity: “We live in such a diverse city.  As far as I’m concerned, the photos can hang somewhere else in the theatre but not on the staircase.

The opposition on Antwerp council is livid.  The greens note that for the Flemish nationalists the ‘Flemish canon’ is more important than diversity or free speech.  The far-left Labour Party speaks of censorship, while the governing socialists of Vooruit insist this is a decision made by the culture alderman and that it will need to be discussed.  As far as the party is concerned cultural bodies are free to decide for themselves what they hang on their walls.

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