Interview with culture ships arouses quite a few reactions: “The great art that we like to show today would not have been made without subsidies” (Antwerp)

“The era of urban poets is over. Dead and buried.” That’s what Antwerp’s mayor of culture, Nabilla Ait Daoud (N-VA) said on Tuesday in the Gazet van Antwerpen. And that’s according to the councilors the city poets who resigned together last weekend.

Ait Daoud also did not spare the Antwerp art students who, according to her, adopt an aggressive and rude attitude. “There’s no point in talking to them,” said the ships.

Her statements in the interview evoke many reactions in Antwerp’s cultural landscape. “It’s a shame that Ait Daoud makes a show of it and still doesn’t communicate with those involved,” says former urban poet Ruth Lasters.

Former city poet Ruth Lasters: “It would be nice to do a little self-reflection on the ships, but of course it takes courage”

Former urban poet Ruth Lasters. © Walter Saenen

Already in September, Ruth Lasters took a step back as city poet after the city council rejected her poem ‘ransom’ as a city poem. She calls it “unacceptable” that Ait Daoud gets it noted in this newspaper that the town’s poet is dead and buried.

“The urban poetry festival is a wonderful and important initiative for Antwerp’s cultural landscape,” she says. “A councilor for culture cannot afford such statements. It is up to her to ensure freedom of expression. You work with artists, not marketers. I find it shocking myself that she dares to say such a thing. She now places the blame on the people who have fought for the protection of art and freedom of speech. That is not correct. In fact, she should be doing some self-reflection now. See what went wrong and where you can learn something. It takes courage to look at yourself. I have written directly to the ships twice since my resignation. I have not received any reply. I think it is very unfortunate that a culture councilor does not communicate with his citizens or the artists. She’s making a show of it, and I don’t think that’s right.”

Former city poet Lotte Dodion: “As a court artist, Rubens was actually subsidized”

Lotte Dodion. © Walter Saenen

Last weekend, Lotte Dodion said goodbye to the urban poet. Together with Yannick Dangre, Lies Van Gasse and the poetry duo Proza-K, she resigned her position as city poet due to dissatisfaction with Antwerp’s cultural policy.

“The councilor says that real artists don’t let themselves be hampered by subsidies. That Rubens didn’t do it either,’ says Dodion. “I would like to emphasize that Rubens, as a court artist, was generously subsidized during his lifetime. “The Great Art that we would like to display today would not have been created without a grant. Even the opera that the ships enjoyed so much would not be possible without community investment. I also find it striking that councilors continue to juggle the amount of €684 million that this legislator will spend on culture. Can we finally know what exactly the ‘magic’ amount is spent on?”

Ex-city poet Yannick Dangre: “Ait Daoud was looking for an excuse to stop being a city poet, and she has now found it”

Former urban poet Yannick Dangre. © Nattida-Jayne Kanyachalao

“It’s exactly what I expected,” says the former urban poet Yannick Dangre in response to the statements of Culture Commissioner Ait Daoud. “It had been clear to us for a long time that she was looking for an excuse to get rid of the urban poet. And now she has found one. There were reasons enough for us to leave, but apart from the urban poet, a much bigger problem reports. the cultural landscape of Antwerp. But it is logical for a politician to minimize it. We took a constructive position, just to be able to continue our work. It turned out to be impossible, so we drew our conclusions.”

Drama student Tibbe Walckiers: “The masks are falling off, it is clear that N-VA does not care about culture”

Tibbe Walckiers © Joris Herregods

Tibbe Walckiers is one of the driving forces behind For Fremtiden’s student protest against the cancellation of cultural project grants. For Future will come out with a joint statement in response to the interview with Nabilla Ait Daoud, but already now wants to answer in his own name: “Disgusting. An interview full of lies, where she presents herself as the great savior and pretends that nothing is wrong.”

Walckiers is influenced by Ait Daoud’s harsh language. “I’m not aggressive or rude like the ships say,” he replies. “I am a 20-year-old boy who wants to make art and give other young artists a future with the protest. I now ask again in a friendly tone to come and talk to us. Why not? We are being completely ignored and so is the voice of the people. With this interview, she adds fuel to the fire and provokes a reaction. I really don’t understand why it’s so hard to talk to us. She herself says that she is open to consultation.”

“The whole discussion started with this city council scrapping project support,” Walckiers continues. “But now the masks are falling off. It’s clear that culture means nothing to N-VA, and it’s tiring to watch as a young artist.”

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