Rats de BXL — as we like to call ourselves
The Rats de BXL are young boys and girls coming from different corners of Brussels who share diverse backgrounds and identities. They meet weekly in an atelier in Sint Gillis where they receive some knowledge about colors, drawing, painting, and sketching from young artists, Bilal Kamilla Arnout is one of them. Together they search for their natural creativity, curiosity, independence, freedom of thinking, and love for learning.
In the atelier, they share their gift of freedom to express their emotions and their vision of the world. It is a vision of the world that is very much influenced by us, the grownups, and by what we are facing during this pandemic, especially during the current lockdown and the ones that might come in the future. The Rats de BXL reflect on the reality they experience, and most importantly, they find space on the atelier walls to experiment with new ways of communicating their feelings.
The work in the atelier
The Rats de BXL are currently working on the creation of different characters, everyone with their own features. We, the grownups, want to inspire and get inspired by this research and work together with children to reflect on the venerability of some groups of people affected by this crisis.
During the first sessions in the atelier, they worked on sketchbooks, then they moved to A3 paper sheets, and, finally, they started transferring the drawings on the atelier walls.
Along the process, the children got to see their styles transformed and influenced by each other. The lines of their drawings intertwined and connected with each other, and their styles did the same. They made mistakes too, but there is no real mistake when you see the whole image from afar. This phase has brought Bilal Kamilla Arnout to imagine further steps for a project about groups of vulnerable people's living conditions.
Current developments of Tunnel/Visies
The further step – Tunnel/Visies (working title) - consists of bringing the first research results, be them graffiti created by Rats de BXL, into the city streets, where they are most needed. Too many walls in Brussels lack children's touch or are covered with graffiti produced without real care.
Parallelly to the activities with the children in the atelier, Bilal Alnouri started meeting and dialoguing with homeless people living in the tunnel of Av. Fonsny 478, / Veeartsenstraat, 1060 St-Gillis. The tunnel is the temporary shelter of many homeless people, another group of people whose vulnerability — physical and emotional — has been and still gets neglected during the recent and current months.
Thus, the idea is to bring the Rats de BXL’s vision of the world into the very city, raise awareness about the vulnerability of other groups of people, including the homeless, through the drawings/graffiti created by the Rats de BXL.
The tunnel walls offer a lot of space to bring the creativity of the children into the city. This will be done by gluing posters with the drawings. The idea is to integrate also homeless people’s drawings and thoughts if this interests them. Another idea is to realize stained-glass windows in plastic for the tunnel entrance, creating an installation with holes in it that allows the natural sunlight to create shapes on the walls and ground.
All this, along with other proposals and actions, will be discussed and, maybe, realized — in dialogue and collaboration with homeless people living in the tunnel, respecting their beliefs and needs.
[All the next phases of project realization will comply with the COVID-19 safety measures.]
artistic direction: Bilal Kamilla Arnout
productional support & communication: radical_hope_house / HoP, Heike Langsdorf, Simone Basani & Alice Ciresola
financial support: CERA-projects & DEMOS kenniscentrum voor participatie en democratie, KASK school of arts Hogent
thanks to: Peter Westenberg, An Van de Vyvere, Loeke van Houtteghem, Maria Stuut, Laura Oriol and others ...