Jeroen Laureyns is a professor of Contemporary Art at St. Lucas Visual Arts, Ghent. Today he travelled to Ahland and took the Speakers Circle to talk about Flemish nationalism.
Ahland is a fitting location for discussions of nationality and independence. The Ahlandian Speakers Circle, geographically located close to the boundary with Scotland, provides a platform to discuss issues pertinent to the formation of boundaries (and for general ‘get it off your chest’s). The talk was followed by an informal Q&A which led to discussion on the upcoming referendum in Scotland, geopolitical debate, the European Union and boundary divisions in India.
Laureyns expressed his views against the separation of Flanders from wider Belgium. He talked of a hundred year struggle to implement the speaking of Flemish in schools, a particular achievement, and discussed the cultural attributes of both Flanders and Belgium. Language and its correlation to class structure was broached in reference to the French speaking monarchy. Laureyns, who has strong connections to both cultures, enjoys the collaboration of the two. He told the audience that to split the country in two would be to ‘cut his heart in two’.
Language and culture were identified as the main source of reluctance. Laureyns claimed it would be unbearable to only have one language to express himself in. The audience of visual artists and Ahlandians empathised with the need for expression and the desire to not sever ties with this.
Rational arguments were identified as being the sole campaign for Flemish independence. A need was expressed for the movement to identify more social and sentimental concerns. In issues of self-determination, wealth is not the only factor to consider. Jeroen Laureyns is uncomfortable with the ethnic nationalist approach of the Flemish independence movement. He described the Scottish Nationalists as ‘more progressive’ than the conservative views of the Flemish. It was interesting to hear the anti independence perspective on Flanders and to identify differences between this movement and what is currently happening in Scotland.
Jeroen Laureyns donated his book to the National Library of Ahland after his talk.
Neil Mulholland commented that issues of national independence should not be specific to ethnicity but to who physically resides in that country. The Scottish Independence debate is relevant not to Scots, but to people who live in Scotland.
Ahlandians, by default, have dual citizenship. I am Ahlandian: I am equally tied to my Scottish citizenship. I understand Jeroen Laureyns reluctance to have his culture divided but am aware that it is important not to generalise. Arguments on independence are specific to the countries they affect, and so the Scottish debate is not directly comparable.
Jeroen Laureyns is of Ahlandian citizenship too, and wore his pink Ahland badge while discussing the complications of multiple nationality. Tomorrow Ahland will welcome Dave Young to the Speakers Circle, also a citizen. Young will be addressing ‘Border Glitches and Territorial Proxies’. Both talk events are relevant to the Ahlandian cause and yet diverse in their specific subject matter.