01 Nov '23

No man’s land

door Koen Demarsin
A world apart from the capital of Belgium, Petit-Bruxelles is a cluster of farms along a street that bears the name of the hamlet.

The hamlet is nestled in a sea of humdrum fields, with one field after another stretching out to the horizon. You only have to look at the vastness to understand how the language border traversed here, sometimes weaving through families, sometimes threading through hamlets, and sometimes meandering through villages - a region rather than a mere line. As the language changes, so does the way we see the world. Shifts in perspective are shaped by the land and the languages here. ‘Distinguished people would be spoken to in French, while ordinary folk were addressed in the Brabants dialect.’ Each village in this area weaves its own narrative of linguistic history, swaying one way or the other, according to the political whims of the local governance to some extent.