In 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War was commemorated all over the world. But on 17th February 2014 it was also exactly 50 years ago that Belgium and Morocco signed a bilateral agreement to bring workers from Morocco to Belgium. They were employed mainly in the heavy metal industry, the coal mines, road and underground train construction and the textile industry.
In about April 2015 there was, in various ways, a commemoration of the fact that, near Ypres, a new weapon of mass destruction had first been employed: poisonous gas. The first victims were French soldiers: divisions from Brittany, Calvados and… North Africa. The local inhabitants were astonished by the colourful spahis, tirailleurs and Zouaves from the hot lands of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco who were deployed at the front in Flanders.
The ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’ offers its visitors explanations of the historical events that took place here. But space in the permanent exhibition is also kept free to show, once a year, new creations by a young artist that make us reflect on the violence of war.
2015 is the perfect moment to invite the French-Moroccan artist Mehdi-Georges Lahlou to be our artist-in-residence. He was born in Les Sables d’Olonne (1983) as a son of a Moroccan father and a Spanish mother, and studied in Quimper, Nantes and Breda. Since 2007 he lives and works in Brussels and Paris. In addition to performance art, his media include photogra- phy, video, sculpture and installations. A fertile imagination, a pinch of surrealism, some prov- ocation, absurdity and sensuality, these are the ingredients of an oeuvre in which he makes us think about our tolerance on gender issues, Islam and Christianity, or in short our cultural and religious identity. You are now holding the result of his residence in Ypres in your hands.
Curator of the In Flanders Fields Museum