Stromae and Kompany: Belgium, the same battle?

On Brussels’ Grand-Place Friday the singer Stromae surprised his mostly French-speaking audience by speaking first in Dutch, saying, “Fellow Belgians, how’s it going?” The country’s north couldn’t believe its ears. Since then, the comparison has been made: “Vincent Kompany and Stromae are fighting the same battle.”

Do they really have something in common? Yes, their elegance and finesse, their looks, their glow, and an almost supernatural air. On the television screen, they seem detached, above the crowd. They are Afro-Belge, stylish, urbane, proud and modest at the same time. They are intellectuals but down to earth. At the top of their respective industries, they remain authentic without being overly familiar. As far as marketing, Paul Van Haver doesn’t need any lessons from Vincent K. Business is booming and nothing is left to chance or bad taste.

 

Are they post-Belgian? They are both the product of the “Take charge of yourself” and the “why not?” generation in Brussels. Both came from very modest homes with immigrant ties who learned in school – their parents pushed them to study – Kompany in Dutch, Stromae with the Jesuits in Namur, but they also learned on the street. They blazed their own trails with good support but also with total confidence in their own talent.

 

Why are they promoting north-south Belgian unity? They rarely discuss politics, and if they do, it’s in the role of unifier. Tolerance is their ideology. As far as patriotism, they praise the melting pot represented by the Belgian flag, and they oppose division. Stromae lays claim to his status as an illegitimate child. He sings Arno’s “We are all Europeans.” They are both the products of multiculturalism: both Afro-Belges and zinneke (Brussels natives). Kompany was raised in French and studied in Dutch, and Stromae’s mother is Flemish and perfectly bilingual.

 

Are they political? If not, it really seems like it. Kompany’s tweet after the Belgium-Scotland match, “Belgium belongs to everyone, but tonight, it’s ours #reddevils,” was aimed at De Wever after his victory in Antwerp. When Stromae was onstage, the evening of the French Community Festival, he asked his “fellow Belgians”, “Do you speak Dutch? In Brussels, we speak French and Dutch, OK?” He was giving a lesson to French-speakers on the necessity of bilingualism in the Belgian capital. These two “bridge-builders” aren’t running for office, but they are campaigning against incitement to division.

 

Béatrice Delvaux

Editor in Chief

 

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One Response to Stromae and Kompany: Belgium, the same battle?

  1. Paul says:

    A pretty text, Ms. Delvaux. And I can only salute Messrs. Kompany and Stromae at their recognition of certain realities, quite a progress from sociological “rules” of the past. If now you would be so kind as to replace, in this text, the concept “Afro-Belges” by “Afro-Belgians”, you might be credited with respecting the English language.

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