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Molenbeek, Capital of Culture 2014, kicks off with MolenStart

 - ©ADT-ATO / Véronique Kirszbaum

2014-01-26 – Sound and light effects play on the black lake of Karreveld Castle. Night has just fallen, and the darkness is bedecked with fuchsia as the opening festivities get underway for ‘Molenbeek, Capital of Culture 2014’. On Saturday 25 January, MolenStart was the very first scheduled event on the programme – the preamble to many others throughout the year.

We were there ‘to build bridges, weave the fabric, arouse new desires, and find points of convergence and togetherness. To create encounters.’ The tone was set right from the submission of Molenbeek’s application, and was subsequently underlined by the appointment of Pierre-André Itin as coordinator (see opposite). And on Saturday evening, Molenbeek and its hosts met around the four elements: water, air, earth and fire. The theme colour was fuchsia, a young, vibrant, dynamic and unifying colour that has been chosen as the emblem of the campaign (see video).

Bridges across time?

The backdrop was ideal. Past, present and future were on all sides, including in the architecture. The castle, which dates from the 13th century, is overlooked to the rear by a typical 70s-style block of flats on Boulevard Mettewie. In the courtyard stood absurd, futuristic machines for making air, water, earth and fire, drawn by schoolchildren and turned into 3D objects at the Bonnevie Training Centre. In the darkness, the lights from the apartments cast a contemporary aura on the old castle, while the four outlandish contraptions gave the whole scene a futuristic appearance.

Bridges of light…

Two years ago, La Louvière was Capital of Culture. Its illuminated fairies, clad in spectacular costumes made of recycled materials, came to hand over the baton and pass on the energy, making their tiny lights dance enchantingly around the lake. It was a dreamlike moment that successfully lulled the audience, who had been trampling around in the mud for some time following rain earlier in the day, into a good-humoured and receptive mood.

On the water floated 2014 candles, symbolising the wishes of all kinds expressed by the people of Molenbeek for the future of their municipality. Fuchsia and blue spotlights on the castle façade vied with pyrotechnic displays, cascades of flares and fireworks accompanied by the usual cries of joy (or sometimes fear) from the children, and to the sound of applause when three firecrackers launched at the same time formed a beautiful bouquet.

Bridges of music!

The spell-binding fairies were followed by a brass band that serenaded the year with due pomp and circumstance. A violinist took his place on the steps, and then a vocal ensemble appeared at the windows of the building. The highlight of the festival, of course, was the rap song ‘Molem-Capitale’ which set the crowd alive, with the performers’ friends who already knew the words singing along. This track was written and composed by seven local youngsters, under the benevolent guidance of the rapper Pitcho, who also hales from Molenbeek. Weeks of collaboration, synergy and perseverance had gone into it, and the resultant blend of genres, ages and cultures has produced snappy lyrics and a pulsating sound (listen here). It’s rap, so it’s supposed to be infectious, right?

Big reunion

After just under an hour of these treats for eye and ear, the contented guests were invited to cross the bridge: mint tea and hot chocolate were served in the castle’s courtyard.

Mixing with people from different backgrounds, a laid-back atmosphere, multiculturalism, shared enjoyment, exchange, recognition... thesewere the watchwords for this launch event and they also sum up the ambitions for ‘Molenbeek Capital of Culture 2014’ as a whole. We can’t wait to see what will follow!

Véronique Kirszbaum