Matongé: a Historically Congolese Neighborhood Turned Gentrification Nation

 
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Around the corner from the EU institutions lies Matongé. An African reverie for many, Matongé is a poignant picture of gentrification—plagued by rising rent and the commodification of its cultures for consumption by others.

The quarter, a shining example of modern multicultural Belgium, was established by Congolese migrants. Walking down Chaussée de Wavre, the neighborhood’s main street, feels like a journey through the the multifaceted African continent.

On May 26, Belgians will be able to vote in three different elections—regional, federal and European. What does Matongé’s proximity to the motherboard of European democracy mean for the people who live there? And what do they, in turn, mean to European and Belgian politics?

Here are a few of its inhabitants.

by Diana Takacsova & Trudy Kazangu

 

“Living in Europe made me realize that the only way to make it work is to stick together; immigrants and natives. We are a part of this continent as much as they are, so they don’t really have a choice. Many of us are Belgian and this country belongs to us as well, because we contributed to its growth. I’m African but I’m speaking for anybody with non-European roots.”

“Living in Europe made me realize that the only way to make it work is to stick together; immigrants and natives. We are a part of this continent as much as they are, so they don’t really have a choice. Many of us are Belgian and this country belongs to us as well, because we contributed to its growth. I’m African but I’m speaking for anybody with non-European roots.”

“I’ve lived in Belgium for approximately a year and if I could move to another country in Europe I’d choose the UK. As far as it’s a part of Europe. I just feel more comfortable over there. People are more open minded overseas. They have a better attitude when it comes to fashion, work and social abilities.”

“I’ve lived in Belgium for approximately a year and if I could move to another country in Europe I’d choose the UK. As far as it’s a part of Europe. I just feel more comfortable over there. People are more open minded overseas. They have a better attitude when it comes to fashion, work and social abilities.”

“I’m voting because it’s my right, but I honestly don’t consider it as an action that will benefit minorities in Belgium. There’s too much racism and discrimination in this country. Matongé is a good example of this: the police here suspects and checks people of color more often than others. That’s sad. Politicians should speak up about it.”

“I’m voting because it’s my right, but I honestly don’t consider it as an action that will benefit minorities in Belgium. There’s too much racism and discrimination in this country. Matongé is a good example of this: the police here suspects and checks people of color more often than others. That’s sad. Politicians should speak up about it.”

“When I turn 18, I hope that I’ll be more involved in politics. I don’t speak Dutch and I feel like this language barrier is one of the main reasons why I’m not really interested in politics. I think that this is the case for many Afro-Belgians.”

“If I were the prime minister of this country, I would try to raise more awareness about the former Belgian colony of Congo. I feel like the government is always hiding the truth and acts like it never happened. I’m Congolese myself and I follow the local news of the country. Europeans and Americans are still there, shamelessly plundering our land and nobody is doing anything about it. They can stay if they help us developing the country. But if their intentions are to steal from us, they should leave right away.”

“If I were the prime minister of this country, I would try to raise more awareness about the former Belgian colony of Congo. I feel like the government is always hiding the truth and acts like it never happened. I’m Congolese myself and I follow the local news of the country. Europeans and Americans are still there, shamelessly plundering our land and nobody is doing anything about it. They can stay if they help us developing the country. But if their intentions are to steal from us, they should leave right away.”

“In my opinion, African people living in Europe should adapt to the norms of the country in which they’re living. I think that this is the best way to avoid frustrations. Minorities should act like Europeans when living in one of its countries, but never forget where they come from. Although I’m African, I behave like a European when I’m in Europe. But as soon as I go back to my motherland, I embrace my culture to the fullest.”

“In my opinion, African people living in Europe should adapt to the norms of the country in which they’re living. I think that this is the best way to avoid frustrations. Minorities should act like Europeans when living in one of its countries, but never forget where they come from. Although I’m African, I behave like a European when I’m in Europe. But as soon as I go back to my motherland, I embrace my culture to the fullest.”

“When I arrived in Belgium, there were no jobs for people of color. It was either cleaning or serving. My degrees didn’t count. I can tell that things have changed since then, but minorities still have to fight harder to earn a good living. I don’t see many colored people running for a position at the European Parliament either. We’re so underrepresented. Our votes are meaningless.”

“When I arrived in Belgium, there were no jobs for people of color. It was either cleaning or serving. My degrees didn’t count. I can tell that things have changed since then, but minorities still have to fight harder to earn a good living. I don’t see many colored people running for a position at the European Parliament either. We’re so underrepresented. Our votes are meaningless.”

“No politician will get my vote until I see some actual societal changes. They promise things but never follow up on those promises.”

“No politician will get my vote until I see some actual societal changes. They promise things but never follow up on those promises.”

“I’m not Belgian yet, but I’m legally staying in this country. I’m a dance teacher in a cultural center called Kuumba in the Matongé quarter. My job has taught me a lot about people. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. If I had to choose between voting for a white or black representative, I’d vote for the one that has the best interests for the people in Belgium. “

“I’m not Belgian yet, but I’m legally staying in this country. I’m a dance teacher in a cultural center called Kuumba in the Matongé quarter. My job has taught me a lot about people. I’ve learned not to judge a book by its cover. If I had to choose between voting for a white or black representative, I’d vote for the one that has the best interests for the people in Belgium. “

 

— This series appears in
Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue

This Is Not An Elections Issue
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