A cultural and artistic day at Notre-Dame de Gemmenich college, in homage to the history of Moresnet-Neutre

A cultural and artistic day at Notre-Dame de Gemmenich college, in homage to the history of Moresnet-Neutre
A cultural and artistic day at Notre-Dame de Gemmenich college, in homage to the history of Moresnet-Neutre

Smell of cooking, spray paint, regular metallic clicking, notes of Esperanto, etc.: there was no question of mathematics, geography or English this Thursday at Notre-Dame de Gemmenich college. The 430 students from Secondary 1 to 6 were immersed in a series of workshops for a day that was intended to be artistic, cultural and above all immersive. This is the principle of the Cultural and Artistic Education Pathway (PECA) set up in the various establishments of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, as part of the Pact of Excellence, which aims to offer a “complete cultural experience”. “That is to say both the theoretical knowledge of the cultural object, but also the relational component, the meeting of artists, and then the existential component. The fact, for example, in the case of a play, of reliving the play, of interpreting passages, etc. This is a dimension which is often forgotten and confused with playfulness because we think that this will attract youth. But for me it’s the experimental component of art that appeals to them!”explains the director of the CND, Benoît Hilligsmann.

“Revaluing this often forgotten cultural heritage”

The 22 workshops and cultural walks offered “à la carte” to students were guided by a very local theme: “the unusual history of Moresnet-Neutre”, a territory which today corresponds to La Calamine which was considered neutral from 1816 to 1919 The artistic and cultural journey began more than two months ago, for the second and third grades, with the reading of the book. Zinc by David Van Reybrouck, then by the discovery of its adaptation for the theater by the Dynamo troupe. This Thursday morning, the main actor, the Hervien, Patrick Donnay was present for a “stage edge”.

Other young people were introduced to watercolors with calaminar thinking as a model, others followed a slam workshop on questions of identity and territory, while the Esperantist society of Verviers presented this international language of which Moresnet- Neutral wanted to be the cradle,…. Vanessa Denis (aka De Nys) offered to manipulate the material, copper and brass. “They had to file the piece, sand it, rub it and then they draw on it using an engraver and a hammer. It’s remarkable: most started with personal freehand drawings.”

The day ended with the exhibition of all the creations, including a mural which will brighten up the courtyard. The young director, who is in his 3rd year in this position, hoped by this choice “reforge the school’s identity” And “revalorize this often forgotten cultural heritage”. “It is often what is closest that we take less trouble to discover”. An approach that is all the more relevant given the college’s links with this part of history. “We had the grandchildren of Émil Rixen, who is mentioned in the book Zinc, here at school. And Léo Rixen (Editor’s note: one of his sons) celebrated Easter mass last year”points to the one whose grandfather had neutral nationality.


A journey in three stages

This cultural and artistic education course was set up with the help of Julie Gustin, PECA cultural referent at SeGEC. A first educational day intended for teachers was set up in February. They watched the play Zinc and themselves participated in various workshops and visited the metallurgy museum in Liège and the Vielle Montagne museum in La Calamine. After the reading, the evening was the second stage for the students, with the presence of Léo Rixen. “He went on stage at the end and thanked the troupe, then spoke about the situation we were currently experiencing with conflicts around identity, language and nationality. It was very touching.”

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