August 22, 2018 / 5:42 PM / 3 months ago

Beer, chips and historic women inspire new Brussels street names

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From surrealist art and notable women to beer and chips, streets in a Brussels district undergoing regeneration are being named according to the whims of the Belgian public.

The eclectic mix of new names chosen by Brussels residents range from Passage de la Kriek, named after a famous Belgian cherry beer, to Ceci n’est pas une rue (This is not a street), inspired by the art of Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte.

“To give a street a name, it gives it a certain identity,” Kris Verhellen, CEO of the Extensa development group which owns the former transport hub in the north of the city, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said he had been surprised by the “poetic” contributions, with many people sharing personal memories and hopes in their submissions.

The project comes as many cities taking on major regeneration projects look to ensure local people and histories are reflected.

It will commemorate two significant Belgian women after a campaign by a local feminist group highlighting the lack of streets named after historic female figures.

Both the film director Chantal Akerman and the country’s first female medical doctor Isala Van Diest will have roads named in their honor.

The feminist group involved in the project Noms Peut-etre (Names Maybe) say they are working to “denounce the invisibility of women in public space”.

Members have stuck up unofficial street names in Brussels to commemorate women and are also pushing for new public spaces to reflect their role - a phenomenon also seen in the Netherlands.

Dutch activists unofficially renamed streets in major cities after finding the vast majority commemorated men.

Verhallen said he hoped the names in the Brussels development would help shape the feel of the new area.

After one square was named after a term of endearment, they worked to create a romantic lovers’ nook within the space, he said.

“I think it should be a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy,” he added.

Reporting by Sonia Elks, Editing by Claire Cozens; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, resilience and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

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