POM Magazine

POM Magazine, Magazine voor Stijl & Cultuur

POM Magazine

Brussels, a city with many faces

I have only been to Brussels, once. Well, stranded would actually describe the situation better. I had to catch a flight from Brussels Airport, but missed it due to the heavy winter weather. I had to stay overnight and decided to walk the streets of Brussels to soak up the city’s atmosphere. I understood immediately when people describe Brussels as raw. Walking through the broad streets, I felt uneasy. I did not understand why. But after my interview with the Dutch dancer and filmmaker, Jip Heijenga, I began to understand the city. Jip has lived for three years in Brussels, where she also studies film at the Brussels Art School, Sint Lucas. In this article she explains the raw side of this fascinating European metropole.

by Klaartje Til

What kind of city is Brussels?
Brussels has an eclectic mix of people. It has nineteen municipalities and about one hundred and eighty nationalities. That makes Brussels the most mixed city I know. I am very comfortable with that. It fascinates and inspires me.

What do you mean by “mixed city”?
Like every city, Brussels consists of social circles. I noticed that these circles flow into one-another. People know each other from different circles. Everybody is open to other circles. I also noticed that cultures are not separated by neighbourhood. There are so many different nationalities in Brussels, that they have to live together. You cannot separate them because the city itself is already so divided. Belgium is also so divided. Perhaps the reason why people feel at home in Brussels is because it is not a city made up of one nationality. Even though the city is divided, it works very well as a whole.

What do you mean by divided?
Brussels is not unified by language. It is also divided by the large number of different municipalities, and the split between Flemish and Walloon. French and Dutch is spoken in addition to the various languages that people speak from their own culture. Belgium is divided by Dutch and French speaking people, but the real Brusselaars don’t feel Flemish or Walloon. They are from Brussels and are proud of that. There isn’t a real division of districts, not even in terms of wealth. Rich and poor live together. And if I lived one street further along, I would have had to register with another municipality. I live in Brussels, but a bit beyond lie Schaerbeek, Ixelles and Saint-Gilles. These suburbs are separate municipalities with their own city centre. They have different rules and traditions, and are part of Greater Brussels.

Belgium’s Dutch and French speaking is often a delicate issue. Also in Brussels?
The older generation of Walloons expects everybody in Belgium to speak French. Younger people are often multi-lingual. Most of the Flemish people I know in Brussels speak French. But those originating from Brussels speak both French and Dutch. They move in the Walloon circles, as well as the Flemish circles of Brussels.

Is there a Brussels language?
Sure, there is even more than one language. There is Brussels French which is very different from the French spoken in France. There is the Brussels street language, very cool and with a lot of swag, often spoken by young people. And there is an old fashion Brussels language, which is only spoken by Brusselaars but hardly heard anymore in the city. It is a language of the past, a vernacular.

What does Brussels exude with its buildings and public spaces?
The first words that pop up in my mind are, “withered wealth”. There are many beautiful buildings, but they are so poorly maintained. There is a lot of grey and on a grey day the city looks extra grey. Also in that regard, Brussels is a city full of variety. There is a mixture of buildings with different building styles right next to each other. There are many Art Nouveau buildings in the centre of Brussels. The St Lucas Art School is in an old castle and in the area of Molenbeek there are a lot of new buildings. When you walk through Brussels you notice large murals with controversial, sexually explicit scenes.

You already mentioned them, the people originating from Brussels, the Brusselaars. What characterises the Brusselaar?
Visiting small cafes and drinking beer late into the night. All cafes close at a certain hour. For example, some appear to be closed because the curtains are drawn. But behind the drawn half-curtains, they remain open into the small hours. You have to knock on the window for a long time and raise your hand above those half-curtains. Then someone will open the door and let you in. There you will find the Brusselaar, still there at seven in the morning, smoking, chatting and drinking.

Are there cafes packed with mural painters?
The art scene is big but you don’t notice it. There is a techno scene in Brussels, mainly underground. Anyway, Brussels isn’t a city where clubs are the stage for big parties. The coolest parties are often one-off events, or organised only once a year. The hip-hop scene is huge in Brussels. They rap in the Brussels street language. The hip-hop youngsters are very stylish, urban with nineties influences, and little distinction in style between boys and girls. That is also Brussels. Being young and hanging out on the street, buying beer in the night shop, little loudspeakers in the background with hip-hop music, and speaking French-Dutch, till very late, when everybody is drunk.

Does Brussels have its own hero, like Amsterdam has André Hazes for example?
Yes, Jacques Brel. There is a statue of him near Manneken Pis. His music feels like Brussels. Stuffy, gloomy, sad, bleak and full of romance. A mix of it all.

I think Brussels looks raw. What makes it look like that?
It feels raw because it is a cohesion of different cultures and languages. There is disorder and a lack of structure, but that makes it also open-minded. The fact is that everything blends in and is very divided at the same time. That contrast makes the rawness, I think.

Austin- An odd one in Texas?

When POM Magazine asked me to do an interview, I was surprised. To investigate a city in Texas, an American State haunted by the image of cowboys, red-necks and conservatism? Also, I didn’t know anything about Austin. That changed after I interviewed Dutch visual artist, Steef Crombach. She works and lives in Austin and lives the Austin life! In this article she explains what makes Austin so special.

By Klaartje Til

Steef, you have been coming to Austin for a couple of years. Can you tell me about this city?
Austin is the capital of Texas. That is a bit strange since Houston is much bigger. Austin isn’t conservative at all, which is often the case with cities where the government is located. But Austin is very liberal and remarkably different from the rest of Texas. It is sometimes said that people live in their own bubble. That you only meet people who have the same lifestyle and opinion as yourself. In Austin that bubble, and the border of that bubble is palpable and visible. As soon as you drive forty minutes from Austin you find yourself in small villages where you experience conventional Texas. And that’s really the opposite of what you see in Austin.

Why is Austin not like the rest of Texas?
It is both an intellectual and a real tech city, because of the University of Texas Austin with over 50,000 students. So there are a lot of young people. People come to Austin all year round because of the music. People from liberal cities such as New York and San Francisco, travel to Austin. The motto of Austin is: Keep Austin Weird. Today that is not as relevant as it was in the past. Hippies came to Austin, especially during the sixties and seventies. Since then, the music has come to Austin. Most parents of people I know that live here, are still hippies. Of course their children all get that. Buying organic products is normal here. The first branch of the organic supermarket chain, Whole Foods Market, started in Austin. And it is still here.

I didn’t know Austin is a big music town.
Bars, restaurants, and hotels are expected to have live music all the time. As a musician you can easily live off your performances. That is why many musicians come to Austin. So the variety of music increases, for which, people come to Austin. It is a circle that holds itself. There are a lot of annual music events such as South-by-South-West and Austin City Limits. And every two weeks there is a free festival called, Blues on the Green, attracting 8,000 visitors. Actually, there are free festivals here almost weekly.

Austin is on the Colorado river. Does that impact the city?
Nature is part of Austin. There are beautiful natural springs with ice cold water and rare salamanders. Barton Spring Pool for example, is a spring that is also a pool which continues to flow into the Colorado River. You can hang out there in the sun all day and sunbathe topless, which is very unusual in America. In general, people in America are very prudent. However, you can’t eat there, just drink water. Next to Barton Springs are the Barking Springs, because you are allowed to take your dog there. You can see the different segments of society lying next to each other, with a small metal fence in between. On one side there is the natural swimming pool with water drinking visitors. On the other side there is a water stream where dogs can walk around and people drink alcohol and play loud music. From these water springs, you can easily row or kayak through the city centre on the Colorado River. You will eventually sail under the Congress Bridge, also called the bat bridge because there are so many bats. So many, that the air turns black when they fly out every evening.

Tell me about the neighbourhoods of Austin. How do they differ from each other?
Until recently, the State Capitol building was the tallest building in Austin, because nothing in the city was allowed to be higher. That rule was abolished ten years ago. So all skyscrapers of the Austin skyline are ten years old or younger. But in general, there are many low-rise buildings in Austin. You often think you are in a bungalow park. Nightlife is in the historic city centre, on East 6th street, with bars that have balconies where you can stand. Near East 6th street is Rainey street. The story goes that a woman once started a bar there in her home. The bar was very successful and the rest of the neighbourhood decided to do the same. So in Rainey street there are residential houses that are now bars. In downtown Austin there are modern apartment buildings with a swimming pool in the courtyard. There are also many, many hotels. They usually have a swimming pool on the top floor. Often, non-guests are allowed to swim in those pools. Just outside the entertainment centre is Clarksville. This is a historic district where most houses are one floor high, have a porch with pillars and huge lawns. In the eastern part of the city, East Austin, people with less money used to lived there, until recently. East Austin is now flooded with galleries, museums and other creative projects that left downtown because of the high rents. Many buildings in East Austin are from the sixties and seventies. The neighbourhood is run down, but the inhabitants paint their houses in all possible colours and sometimes even line it with mosaic. Most young people live a ring further away from the city centre. That is a neighbourhood with a lot of apartment complexes. They are sometimes housed in enormous buildings with a swimming pool and a communal laundry room. Around these complexes a sort of new city centre is created with a large supermarket, shops and a nice park. The Domain is such a centre. These pre-programmed social meeting points don’t work in the Netherlands, but they do in Austin.

Do you notice the cowboy culture in Austin?
There are cowboys in Austin- people riding on horseback and who own a small farm near the historic centre of Austin. There is country-dancing in some bars and saloons. But most cowboys are republicans, think guns and the rough life. But, when is a person a cowboy? I sometimes work in the fields just outside Austin, helping a local brewery. They grow their hop there. Working in the fields you really need to wear long sleeves, long trousers, a hat, gloves and a piece of cloth to cover your nose against the sand and dust. You need to wear high boots because of the snakes. You look like a cowboy wearing functional clothing that protects and is needed for your work.

What do you call a person born and raised in Austin?
An Austinite, and you are only an Austinite if you were born in Austin. Because so many people from other cities moved to Austin, there are not many Austinites. Austinites are calm and down to earth. They will show their true character even though it may be the first time you meet them. There are no courtesies. You don’t have to guess what they mean with what they say. They are friendly people, down to earth, and they have a strong bond with nature.

Illustration: Auke Triesschijn

The Stomach of The Hague

Somewhere in The Hague, sandwiched between Herman Costerstraat en De Heemstraat, in the district of De Schilderswijk, is a hidden enclave surrounded by fences. It evokes a feeling of borders, as if it is a mini country within a city. Four days a week the borders of the enclave open from 09:00 to 17:00. People readily make use of that. On average 35.000 people visit on such a day. It is called de Haagse Markt (The Hague Market), the largest market in The Netherlands and one of the largest in Europe.

But does that mean that this is typical of The Hague? No. If you find yourself in any market in Amsterdam, there is no doubt in which city you are in. But this market could be situated anywhere. Here Suriname is next to Turkey. One street further away, the medina flows seamlessly into the Toko. The Volendam fish shop is next to a booth loaded with Mediterranean goodies. Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts lie side-by-side with the papayas and tajer. This multicultural place has been popularly referred to as The Stomach (De Maag), from the very beginning: exotic fruit was already available there in 1920. Up until 1938 The Stomach was located much closer to the city centre, De Prinsegracht. Because of the increasing traffic, the market had to move to the current location. In 2015 the market had a turbulent time, an extreme make-over full of the agony of renovation and relocations. So what has changed? It is not a mishmash of 500 booths, containers and trailers anymore. Now there are permanent booths, all in the same style. A solid roof prevents visitors receiving an unexpected splash of rainwater on their neck due to the sagging little canvases. The wide aisles with little gutters in the middle make the difference. There is less of a hold-up, and less of a chance to clash with somebody’s mobile scooter or shopping trolley. No more wading through melting water while standing in fish shop queue. Plus, the digital payer doesn’t need to look for an ATM, outside the market, although there are still booths where paying cash is the rule. However, the permanent residents of the enclave haven’t changed. They give the typical couleur locale that makes you forget that their booths resemble shops now. They come from families that have been selling on the market for generations, and eventually, seem to be happy with their new lockable shops. In any case, displaying and cleaning up is a lot faster.

Although the market has much more to offer, food dominates. If there is a common language in this market then it is the universal language of food. After all, everybody has to eat. In case of an acute snack attack, a world opens for the stomach: from Turkish pizza to French fries, from fried fish to Vietnamese spring rolls, and from samosas to meatball sandwiches. People from many nationalities and walks of life, go to the market. Some for daily groceries, others for curtain fabric, new clothing, a day trip or just for Friday fish. The social code of conduct feels almost rustic. People who, outside the market, would never meet, let alone talk with each other, stand together, wondering which dates will taste the best. As a visitor you are bound to see products you are not familiar with. Just ask. If the salesperson is too busy, nine times out of ten, a fellow customer volunteers to be a source of information. Sometimes with tips and recipes you wouldn’t find in any cookbook.

Of course The Stomach is not a Walhalla. Like anywhere else you have to watch your bag and sometimes there are quarrels and irritations. If you don’t like people squeezing themselves to your left and right to reach the busy booths, then you are better off staying far away from the market. But generally the spirit of tolerance and respect is everywhere. If having dinner together brings fraternisation, then buying food at The Stomach of The Hague comes second. The Stomach’s new style fits the needs of today’s spoiled consumers, but its atmosphere is familiar and has something for everyone. Whether you are there: on a gourmet safari, scoring your daily meal, just want to do some fun-shopping or to enjoy the place. A visit to this three football-field-wide part of Schilderswijk, feels like a trip to another town. Wherever that town may be.

Text: Anne van de Heiden
Photography: Jasmijn Schrofer and Polly Parker

When I think of Los Angeles, I think of the movies, Hollywood and showbiz. After my interview with Camilla Lonis I now have a very different picture of Los Angeles. Camilla Lonis has lived in Los Angeles for several years. She works in LA, in an art gallery called Subliminal, owned by the graphic artist, Shepard Fairey, she designs for the OBEY Clothing brand and is also Studio Number One’s, design director. Camilla’s keyword for Los Angeles is culture. Car culture, tattoo culture, street culture, music culture, imported culture; those palm trees were not originally part of the LA street scene. In this article Camilla explains what makes Los Angeles so special.

By Klaartje Til

Los Angeles makes me think of glitz, glamour, Hollywood, showbiz and celebrities. Is that really the case?
If you live here, it is almost impossible not to meet famous people. The glitzy glamour Hollywood Hills lifestyle is definitely Los Angeles. LA has many neighbourhoods and they all are different. Together they form Los Angeles. Echo Park and Silver Lake, for example, are areas where you see people walking down the street, dressed entirely in ‘70s outfits. That is their daily outfit. If you drive a little further, you would arrive in a neighbourhood with a lot of Mexican culture.

What else do you notice about the influence of Mexico in Los Angeles?
LA is close to the Mexican border, you’ll be in Mexico in no time, it is a beautiful country. The Mexican border is also a place where people who try to enter the USA illegally, are arrested and detained in prison. However, LA has programs that help people who are illegal here. They have no papers, no social security number, but they can get health care. They can also, for example, get their driver’s licence here in LA.

Where do you think this solidarity comes from?
People with a Mexican background are the majority of the population in LA. If the city is not supportive of them, it will malfunction.

What is the reputation of Los Angeles both in and outside of California?
A city where everyone is dressed in yoga outfits and everyone has star power. Everyone is super arrogant and there is zero culture. People who are here on holiday visit the famous sights. They go to Hollywood Boulevard to visit the Walk of Fame, where there are also a lot of tramps. They see the big contrast between rich and poor. That can be confronting. They visit Beverly Hills and see excessive luxury and visit Rodeo Drive with its intense brand presence. However, these are not the things that make LA.

And what makes LA? How can I find out, if I visit Los Angeles?
You have to go all the way down Sunset Boulevard. It’s a very long street that runs through different neighbourhoods. You start at the beach and head for Hollywood. After you have passed the Hollywood Walk of Fame you’ll arrive in Los Feliz, which is a calmer neighbourhood. After Los Feliz, you enter the hipster areas Silver Lake, and Echo Park, and continue driving to get to downtown LA. If you drive on Sunset Boulevard, you will see all the areas that make up LA. I sometimes drive on that street just for fun because it’s beautiful. You should also visit East LA. It is the oldest part of Los Angeles with a lot of Mexican culture. South LA is very different too. It’s a vast area, not at all touristy and full of culture. Of course the beach is important in Los Angeles. I love Malibu with its beaches. It is also a great place for hiking.

A lot of rappers sing about Malibu beach don’t they?
You know, once you live here you discover that every part of LA is being rapped about (laughs).

Why is rap so big in LA?
Many famous rappers grew up here. Maybe it has to do with the LA gang culture. These gangs are  not just a few groups of people hanging around, having fun. They operate in their own way and there are certain rules for that. It’s a different way of growing up. It’s a bit rougher and perhaps you therefore feel more creativity and freedom, and the need to express yourself. In LA, that often happens with rap and graffiti.

Is Los Angeles a culinary city?
The food culture is very good, but you need to know where to go. There is an infinite number of  fantastic Mexican restaurants. Food trucks are an important part of the food culture here. On Friday and Saturday nights you see a lot of food trucks, sometimes even cocktail trucks, in streets where a lot of restaurants are located. Then you walk down the street and get a food-fill here, a taco there, and a cocktail from one of the trucks. It’s all very relaxed. But there are also extremes. LA has many super chic restaurants. They serve smaller portions and are beautifully decorated.

What do you call a typical LA person?
An Angelino and an Angelina. You have to have balls to be one. Whether you’re an LA native or you come to live here, you have to stand up. Of course, that’s in every big city. But this city is vaster, so you need to make yourself at home. If you don’t stand firmly you won’t find your way in LA. Even if you are born and raised here, you still have to fight for what you believe in. Angelinos and Angelinas have been through a lot, they are not afraid of anything. The atmosphere in LA is electric, there is so much to do and so much happening here.

It sounds electric, passionate, motivated and uninhibited.
People are definitely uninhibited. And if you want to achieve something in LA, you have to work really hard. There is a lot of competition. People come to LA from all over America and the rest of the world. It’s a mix of people who all want to make something of themselves. You have to be career focused and even then not everyone succeeds. Some people don’t make it.

How can you tell that someone is from LA?
By the respect for the culture that already exists here. It’s the way people treat each other here. I notice that people who have just arrived in LA, talk differently to tramps and the homeless. They have less respect for the fact that people could be armed. Angelinos and Angelinas respect the fact that there is a culture in which commanding respect is important. It results in very nuanced behaviour that people show to each other out of respect.

Subscribe to our newsletter

If you browse this website, you agree with the placement of cookies. More information Hide this message