I have to be honest. I usually don’t watch a fado performance (unless I am in Portugal maybe), listen to a boys choir singing Anglican hymns, attend a Lady Gaga concert, and I have never, ever visited an opera performance. Am I a cultural dork?
I do visit museums though. I did once entered the American Museum of National History in New York, the Kröller Möller Museum in the Netherlands (owning a great collection of Van Gogh paintings) and many more. But again, honesty forces me to tell you that museum passes (to get access to multiple museums) are not good value for me.
Am I a cultural dork?
Not really of course! Many of you know me as a traveler actively looking to discover new cultures. We do talk a different kind of culture here (street culture versus artistic culture), but in the end it is all one big melting pot. The street influences the artist and vice versa.
But that question keeps nagging in the back of my mind: Am I a cultural dork?
I mean, culture is essential! Culture is out there in uncountable styles. Culture can save people from being driven mad by society. Culture can save us from standardisation, incomprehension, hate and indifference.
When I visited Ghent, Belgium, I experienced one big cocktail of styles in architecture, art, design, and music. It is certainly one of the most impressive historical cities in Belgium where history is all around you, gracefully connected to modern design and art.
Let me share with you the cultural cocktail that the city of Ghent offered me this month. I was invited to visit the cultural OdeGand festival and of course, being a real travel flâneur, I exhaustively strolled the streets of Ghent (and drank some Belgian beers when my feet told me they needed a rest….)
The OdeGand festival is the annual opener of the cultural season in Ghent. Throughout the city of Ghent artists from all over the world are performing their talent. It’s a great event to watch different cultural highlights: Indian percussion, Spanish flamenco, Portuguese fado, opera, saxophone, and so much more. With a one day pass you can see multiple performances and blend your own cocktail of styles.
But my question was: would it blend for me?
When the Portuguese fado singer Gisela João thanked us for “loving culture because we need that in our world today” she touched me. Honestly, I totally fell in love with her fado music and her emotional and powerful expression.
Just watch one of her songs below (don’t your dare to complain about the quality of the video, I am still looking for a sponsor of some high quality video equipment…)
So at the OdeGand festival in Ghent I attended a fado as well as an opera performance (with Julia Lezhneva). I watched a woman (An Pierlé) perform hypnotic songs in a big church, I listened to drums, cello and accordion. OdeGand forced me to drown in a pool of cultural diversity and I loved every bit of it!
I am no cultural dork anymore!
The closing ceremony was (again) a great mix of performances, beautifully situated on the Korenlei with historical buildings in the background.
I found a great (long) video that shows all the performances of the closing ceremony, including the wonderful fireworks at the end!
The historical center of Ghent was the perfect host for this festival, but there is more art to be found in Ghent! (you didn’t think this post was already finished, did you?)
Low profile but certainly present is street art. There is one alley in Ghent that is a designated area for street artists. Here they can spray their graffiti and spread their message or artistic talent.
Unique art experience called TRACK
“Art has no limits”
“A city has no limits”
TRACK was a (temporary) art exhibition out in the public space. Throughout the city you bumped into major works of art. 41 international artists were invited to conceive new art works. I did not have enough time to watch them all, but from what I have seen I know that TRACK has no limits…
One of them were the “111 tombs” by Leo Copers. This work, with granite tombstones for different museums, criticizes both the ‘museumalisation’ of famous graveyards as well as the contemporary popularisation of museums. Whatever you think of it, it’s a great place to relax!
“Search and Destroy” by Mekhitar Garabedian was situated to show a big contrast to the renovated splendour of the tourist-oriented city center of Ghent.
My personal favorite was the Bookyard by Massimo Bartolini. It’s an open-air library in the vineyard of the St. Peter’s Abbey. Like good wine, books can broaden the mind…
The Flanders region of Belgium is of growing importance for the design industry. I loved the design museum in Ghent with its temporary exhibition on 70s design (the memories!!) and stunning modern design. The building housing the design museum is from the 18th century, another great example of mixing styles.
Major art and design influencers are to be found in Ghent. What I also like about cities are the small details where local people try to leave their own, personal mark. Like Marilyn….thanks Ghent!
Next up on this blog: 10 convincing reasons to visit Ghent (part 1)
The Flanders Tourism organisation invited me to visit Ghent and the OdeGand festival. My trip was part of a large project to promote Flanders as a festival destination. Around 100 bloggers visited various festivals and you can find their stories on Twitter (#fiaf12) and Facebook (Flanders is a festival).