Matonge Festival

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Matonge Festival (Fête du Quartier Matonge)

***** Location: Brussels, Belgium
***** Season: Mid-summer
***** Category: Observance


At the end of June every year, the Brussels area of Matongé (within the commune of Ixelles) takes an entire week-end to stage a huge street party. The through roads are blocked for the festivities, and people come from all over Brussels and beyond, to enjoy themselves. Brussels loves summer street festivals, but this is one of the biggest!

The Matongé is the African area of Brussels -- named after the elegant city centre street of Kinshasa (DR Congo). It started modestly with a few African shops and a hostel for African university students. Over the decades, it has grown in both size and attractiveness, and is now sought out by the Brussels Africans and non Africans alike for its relaxed, tropical atmosphere and the African music, groceries, restaurants, textiles and hair care provided by the many outlets. The Brussels Africans are well integrated into European society -- they are on the whole no poorer than the local Belgians, and some of them are quite wealthy, liking to flaunt it!

The Matongé is always an enjoyable area, but at festival time, it goes wild!

There is non-stop music up to (and beyond!) midnight for two days, there are cultural events in the many centres around the area, and there is lots of eating and drinking, with the numerous African restaurants of the quarter setting out their various foods. Although there is an increasing population of Anglophone Africans (mostly Nigerians and Ghanaians) now living in Brussels, the Matongé is Francophone, and the local specialities are most often from Congo, Senegal and other West African countries. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the party is for everyone, children and grown-ups alike.

The greatest joy for me, over the years, has been the mixing and blending that I observe. In 2007, most of the tables set out in the streets had mixed parties of African and European friends or family who had come to enjoy the party. A huge proportion of the children are mixed African and European, and a new coffee-coloured generation is growing up into beautiful young citizens.

Enjoying themselves at the Matongé Festival 2007

Text and photo © Isabelle Prondzynski


One of the “must-see” sights of Brussels, certainly among the Top Ten on the Brussels sightseeing trips, is the Matongé mural named “Porte de Namur -- Porte de l’Amour” (Namur gate -- the gate of love). It can be found attached to a house near the old city gate of the road to Namur, and shows a leisurely scene depicting well-off Africa in Brussels -- with a show of flesh that would not be altogether typical!!

© PHOTO virtualtourist.com


Matonge : la fresque

Chéri Samba, peintre congolais de réputation internationale, a été invité à peindre un tableau traduisant les sentiments multiples qui habitent les habitants du quartier Matonge à Ixelles et à rapporter avec humour les éléments signifiants de leur vie quotidienne.

Cette toile a été agrandie sous forme d'une fresque photographique de 15mx12m qui est accrochée à la facade du magazin Hema situé à la rencontre de la chaussée de Wavre et de la Chaussée d'Ixelles à Bruxelles.

Le projet a été accompagné d'animations scolaires et de conférences publiques.

© www.cec-ong.org/Matonge


More Matonge photos (from both Brussels and Kinshasa) here :

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


Matonge feast --
traffic jams reach out
far and wide

lured by
a drummer from Senegal --
Matonge beat

a rasta whirls --
his trinkets and chains
all dance with him

~ Isabelle Prondzynski

Photo © Isabelle Prondzynski

Related words

***** Kenya and African Haiku


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