: Homelands 2019


Hussein is a young Oud player from Iraq. Amèle is a French violinist. They met through the project Homelands and with their partners they have led a group of young people from the area and children from Ecole 6 and created an audio-visual and music show on the theme Homelands.

As a member of the musical project in Molenbeek, I had the pleasure to work with Hussein Rassim, Améle Metlini, Corina Fanizza and the children at Ecole 6, Jovic Mafuta and the youngsters from Foyer Les Jeunes, and Marie-Caroline Lefin at Maison des Cultures.

The final show at Maison des Cultures was the result of a process which started with a series of “jam sessions” with the two groups of young locals, on separate days and on different locations in Molenbeek. These initial sessions served as a rather informal way of getting to know each other, musically as well as personally. At a certain moment, Hussein and Amèle explained the concept of the Homelands project to the children at Ecole 6, and a rough sketch – based on the ideas and input from the children – for a storyline emerged. Amèle, Hussein and I then sat down at Hussein’s place, and spent an extended afternoon tying everything together to a coherent story. Additional dialogues and content were later added by the children. It was then presented to the youngsters at Foyer, who added a song, a dance act, a rap and a video production they had made themselves. Finally, the two groups were brought together, and the different roles for the participants were assigned.

We had a general rehearsal, made some minor adjustments, and finally delivered an audiovisual and musical performance at Maison des Cultures Saturday March 30th.

The process could be described as follows; improvising and “playing” together; presenting the general concept to the children; having the content provided by and the general storyline steered by the children; musicians structuring the whole. It proved to be both challenging and fruitful. The combination of children, brainstorming, professional artists and improvisation may seem a bit chaotic at times. This time, however, it resulted in many unexpectedly touching/poetic moments – and a coherent show.

Arve Hj. Holmen (Le Foyer)


This project at the Maison des Cultures et de la Cohésion Sociale de Molenbeek-St-Jean was the result of a meeting between Hussein Rassim, a young oud player from Irak, and Amèle Metlini, a young Belgian violinist from the Brussels Conservatory. Amèle also works with Chamber Music for Europe, which is managed by Guy and Catherine Danel – both precious collaborators with the House. Hussein and Amèle meet regularly to think about their project and bring together their musical styles. Between January and the end of March they have worked together every week with a dozen children aged between 6 and 12 from the Ecole 6 in Molenbeek, and with a group of young people from “Foyer” in Molenbeek (Foyer gives workshops in music and cinema, organized by Jovic and Arve.)

The artistic aim: a theatre and musical production for violin, oud, voice and video installation. Every participant had a precise role and was essential in the creative process leading up to performance, and everyone kept in mind the theme: “my house, what makes me feel at home.” Around 20 working sessions took place between December 2018 and the end of March 2019, at Ecole 6 on Wednesday afternoons and at Foyer on Friday evenings. This cultural and social adventure finished with a public performance at the Molenbeek House of Culture on March 30, 2019. The children sang and recited the story that they had created: the story of Myriam, who left her country for the United States of America because she wanted to learn to play the violin…

Maison des Cultures et de la Cohésion Sociale de Molenbeek

Ahmad Al Saadi & Normal Pendergast @ZINNEMA

Ahmad is a photographer from Syria. Norma is an Irish artist.

I met Ahmad Al Saadi at Zinnema in Anderlecht, in June of last year.  It was Ramadan and an exceptionally hot day in Brussels.  

Ahmad is a young Syrian man who arrived in Brussels 3 years ago.  

I am an Irish woman who has been living in Brussels for 30 years.  Without revealing my age, I could be Ahmad’s mother.  

As an outside observer one could ask what it is that should bring us together?  

The answer is photography.  

And the reason for our meeting?  ‘Homelands, places of belonging’. Although neither Ahmad nor I were born in Belgium, my experience of ‘belonging’ somewhere is very different to Ahmad’s.  I had the choice of coming to Belgium and can return to my ‘Motherland’, Ireland whenever I wish.   Like many others, Ahmad was forced to flee Syria.   He will not be able to return ‘Home’ for some time to come. 

 An innocent observer may wonder what makes my situation different to Ahmad’s?  It seems to come down to where I was born and/or where I live.  My homeland or more clearly, my passport.  

 As of May 2018, Irish citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 185 countries and territories, ranking the Irish passport 5th in terms of travel freedom (tied with Belgian, Canadian, Danish and Swiss passports) according to the Henley Passport Index. 

 As of May 2018, Syrian citizens had visa-free or visa on arrival access to 32 countries and territories, ranking the Syrian passport 99th in terms of travel freedom according to the Henley Passport Index. 

 Another question the outside observer may ask.  How is it that one person can be described as an ‘expat’ and another an ‘immigrant’ when it is clear that both people come from a different country to that in which they are currently living? 

 The word ‘Etranger’ in French translates as Stranger in English.  A stranger is someone you don’t know and may possibly even fear.  We tell our children not to talk to ‘Strangers’. 

 One cannot deny that as long as history has been written, the human population has always been moving, migrating.  Somewhere in time we have all been considered ‘a stranger’. 

 Whether this migration is caused by war, economic or climatic disasters, humans have been forever leaving their homelands behind.  As did their ancestors, they embark on long and often dangerous journeys, in the hope of finding a better and more peaceful life, elsewhere, somewhere they can call home. 

 But what is home then? And what does it mean to belong?  What makes a person ‘belong’ to one place but be shunned by another?   

 These are the questions Ahmad and I set out to ask.  

 Our aim was to reveal a common thread among people despite their country of birth, their cultural background.  

 We looked for souvenirs evoked through the senses: smell, sound, taste… imperceptible links to moments or places to which people feel they belong or have belonged. 

 We examined the notion of borders, personal, physical, social and geographical.  And the language used to describe people coming from beyond these borders, from another place.   

 This opened up discussions on identity and what it means to belong to a community, to be an accepted peer, or, on the contrary, to feel you don’t fit in.  To be considered ‘different’, to be ‘from the other side’ – an outsider. 

 The work and our journey started to branch out into different paths, to become more abstract, reaching further intangible zones.  

 To keep our feet on the ground, we decided to come back down to earth, planet Earth, here and now.   

 If we think beyond borders, we know that this planet we inhabit is our first home.  It is Mother Earth who provides us with what we need to survive.  She has no care for gods and governments, power battles, wars and human greed, for she is the ultimate power.    

 When asked the question: Where then should our priorities lie?  

 The observer, by now that bit wiser, may simply answer by referring to the writing of someone who was also a ‘Stranger’, another ‘immigrant’ in his time :  ‘Human beings separate into factions and tribes and adhere to countries and regions whereas I see my essence as foreign to any one land and alien to any single people.  

 The entire earth is my homeland and the human family is my clan.’ 

 Khalil Gibran 

 On Human Unity ‘The vision, Reflections on the way of the soul’  


Norma Prendergast and Ahmad Alsaadi 

Mohammad Aukal & Ruben Vandersteen & Julie De Clercq @PIANOFABRIEK

Mohammad is a dancer from Palestine. Ruben and Julie lead the City Zoom, a studio where young people work on making movies, they learn how to write, direct, film, act and record. Together with Mohammad they have led video workshops around the theme Homelands under the film project City Zoom. CityZoom is a film workshop which aims to give real artistic freedom to the young participants (aged 12-15). The group works around themes and ideas they find interesting that they can translate into image and sound. Along the way they learn how to direct, act, film and edit a scene as well as to work with light and decor. This year CityZoom embraced the Homelands project and Dapke dancer Mohammad Aukal became member of the CityZoom team! During the first semester of the workshop Mohammad set out to make the participants move, giving them some assignments. During the second semester he went further his comfort zone as a dancer and guided the children during the making of a short film. His guidance focused on directing and choreography, making each participant more aware of how to move more dramatically in thei film. Starting from the question “what does it mean to have a homeland?” the group chose a theme to which they had a personal connection: climate change. Inspired by the story of Ulysses they wrote their own adaptation of this ancient myth and made a spectacular movie out of it called “ECO WARRIORS”.

Ali Sabri & Patries Wichers @MUS-E Belgium

Ali is a painter from Iraq. MUS-E brings professional artists like Patries in education together with children and teachers to go on a voyage of discovery within their artistic profession. Patries welcomed Ali in the fourth-grade class of the primary school Baron Steens and they created a dialogue with the kids through painting and drawing.

Ali Sabri collaborated with MUS-E artist Patries Wichers with two classes from the fourth year in primary school Baron Steens.

Like Ali, Patries is originally also a painter and, therefore, the artists started from painting and let the children feel themselves comfortable in this discipline.

They made paintings themselves with egg and colour pigments, experimented with watercolours and charcoal and co-created in small groups.

With the second class they worked on the question: ‘where do you feel at home? which could be connected to the class theme ‘my ideal room’.

They made models in shoeboxes from a room the way they would like to have it “without stuff from my brothers or sisters in it, but the way I would furnish it”.

Abdelsalam Abunada & Véronique Golard & Pauline Richon @L’ENTRELA & Studio Platon

Abdelsalam is a filmmaker and painter from Palestine. Véronique is a ceramics’ workshops animator and Pauline is an observational drawing and digital photography animator.

In Evere, the artist-animators Abdelsalam Abunada, Pauline Richon and Véronique Golard led about twenty creative and participative workshops for the inhabitants and residents of the Plato social housing district, located in the Haut-Evere.

During the first phase of the project, participants expressed themselves on the theme of places of belonging and what it meant for them to “be at home”, to belong to a place or a community, by exploring different artistic techniques: colours and painting, drawing, ceramics and working the earth.

The second phase consisted in the creation of a collective fresco bringing together various materials: painting, mosaics, pieces of wood, stones, etc. The drawing, inspired by the reflections and creations initiated during the first phase of the project, represents a group of people gathered around a campfire. The concept of “warmth” emerged throughout the workshops as a symbolic element of feeling good somewhere.

The fresco was placed on the façade of the building located at 105 Clos des Lauriers Roses and was inaugurated in the presence of the participants and residents on Saturday, April 6, 2019, on the occasion of a festive finalization of the Homelands project!

Tony Bland Degli & Enna Halie @Beeldenstorm

Tony is a fashion designer from Togo. Enna is a creative contributor/project manager at Beeldenstorm vzw. Together they led Batik workshops with people from all ages from the neighbourhood. A Batik installation was created evoking a place where everybody can feel at home.

The project spoke to us immediately because of the underlying, shared ideology: to promote inclusion through art & culture. Our theatre costum & fashion department was a natural fit for the textile artist assigned to us, Tony Bland, with whom we did research, technically and creatively, on how to bring out the best in various batik techniques within the given theme.

The participants, a very culturally mixed intergenerational group from our neighbourhood and participants of our ceramic’s atelier, initiated the creative process by discussing what “homelands” means to them personally. The end result of the ateliers comes forth out of the answer to this question, namely that the majority feels very much at home at Beeldenstorm and as such were interested in making the location even more attractive.

The enthusiasm of the participants made it so that each person felt completely involved in the creative process, a place where everybody and their ideas were welcome, a “homeland”.

Shalaan Lazim & Benoît Coutier & Ada Rajszys @Les Ateliers du Temps Libre – WOLUBILIS

Shalaan comes from Iraq where he studied sculpture. Benoît and Ada give creative workshops on distortion, extension, volume and the third dimension. Together they have led a 3D workshop and create a 3D installation based on the idea of migration and personal interpretation of Shalaan’s experience.

The 3D project, is a creative workshop of free expression on the different facets of the 3rd dimension, for beginners or initiated. It proposes to develop a visual language by exploring 3D shapes / objects in space, to explore the techniques and tools available.

The participants express themselves according to one or more themes but also according to their knowledge and their own sensitivity.

First of all, we take the time to meet ourselves, others and the materials. We experiment and question these subjects. Then, we take into consideration the space, volume, light, colour that resonate with tactile materials. The technique and its transmission are present, of course, but it is mainly a supportive aspect. The essential is to find what everyone wants to translate, to find their own intimate space where the direct relationship to the subjects discussed has meaning for them. In this 3D workshop, all possible supports in sculpture are practiced, this workshop is therefore “open”: sculpture, textile art, monumental art, miniature art, etc.

The participants start from a word base and this year with the topic “Homelands”, which they try to expand with their own experience and then translate into volume. Participants practice on multiple materials according to the basic idea, exploring different paths, sometimes different materials for a single idea, thus leaving the field open for experimentation.

They first learn to look at the general volumes, their articulations and inclinations in space, their relationship of proportions that are the foundation of the sculpture. Then, we refine the creative work. Projects can be formalized through different artistic techniques to best adhere to the creative and personal development of each individual.

Each project is completed thanks to advice and follow-up, taking the time to accompany participants as they progress.

Each workshop is a combination of presentations, group discussions and demonstrations of tools and techniques. A lot of freelance time for projects is provided with the guided help of the instructor on concepts, designs and execution.

Everyone finds in this time of creation, in addition to the deepening of the more technical aspects, the pleasure of working with the material and ultimately the satisfaction of creating a three-dimensional shape.

The intervention/experience with Shaalan Lazim Alazaam, professional sculptor, was interesting in relation to his experience, his history, his experience. His craftsmanship has enabled him to discover a new technique of clay and explore a new way of working by hand with a modular material. He has been involved in the entire process of creation, from the emergence of first ideas to the final outcome of projects and has therefore provided advice during the implementation of each project. Over time, Shaalan has discovered other facets related to the various processes and techniques offered, expanding his own plastic repertoire. He could then integrate them into the advice he gave to others with his own sensitivity, know-how and background. We think it was an experience of discovery for Shaalan, to observe, to see that we can also work differently and with other means.

Chinara Miamona & Caroline Donnelly @Les Ateliers du Temps Libre – WOLUBILIS

Chinara is a painter from Azerbaijan. Caroline is a performer, actress and stage director in charge of a drama workshop at Woluculture. During drama classes at the Ateliers du Temps Libre, the group of participants (of all ages) got inspired by the personal story of Chinara and turned it into a unique performance.

Sometimes it’s only when we are separated from a sound, an atmosphere, a person, an object, a place, a mouvement, a song..that we realise what is vital for our soul.  What makes me what I am, what is part of me, what has made me who I am, what is essential, what I really want, what I don’t dare say.  What are my secrets and do I dare share them?  Locked away or isolated these characters, inspired by drawings and personal stories reveal their secrets.