From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Flanders has historically been a region overlapping parts of modern Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. Today, Flanders designates either the Flemish Community, which includes Flemish-speaking residents of the Brussels-Capital Region, or the Flemish Region, which does not. The parliament and government govern both the Community and the Region, even though they are not co-extensive.
At first sight, Flemish culture is defined by its language and its gourmandic mentality, as compared to the more Calvinistic Dutch culture. Dutch and Flemish paintings enjoyed more equal international admiration.
Language and literature
The standard language in Flanders is Dutch; spelling and grammar are regulated by a single authority, the Dutch Language Union (Nederlandse Taalunie), comprising a committee of ministers of the Flemish and Dutch governments, their advisory council of appointed experts, a controlling commission of 22 parliamentarians, and a secretariate. The term Flemish can be applied to the Dutch spoken in Flanders; it shows many regional and local variations.
Literature in non-standardized dialects of the current area of Flanders originated with Hendrik van Veldeke's Eneas Romance, the first courtly romance in a Germanic language (12th century). With a writer of Hendrik Conscience's stature, Flemish literature rose ahead of French literature in Belgium's early history. Guido Gezelle not only explicitly referred to his writings as Flemish but actually used it in many of his poems, and strongly defended it
The distinction between Dutch and Flemish literature, often perceived politically, is also made on intrinsic grounds by some experts such as Kris Humbeeck, professor of Literature at the University of Antwerp. Nevertheless, nearly all Dutch-language literature read (and appreciated to varying degrees) in Flanders is the same as that in the Netherlands.
Influential Flemish writers include Ernest Claes, Stijn Streuvels and Felix Timmermans. Their novels mostly describe rural life in Flanders in the 19th century and at beginning of the 20th. Widely read by the older generations, they are considered somewhat old-fashioned by present-day critics. Some famous Flemish writers of the early 20th century wrote in French, including Nobel Prize winners (1911) Maurice Maeterlinck and Emile Verhaeren. They were followed by a younger generation, including Paul van Ostaijen and Gaston Burssens, who activated the Flemish Movement. Still widely read and translated into other languages (including English) are the novels of authors such as Willem Elsschot, Louis Paul Boon and Hugo Claus. The recent crop of writers includes the novelists Tom Lanoye and Herman Brusselmans, and poets such as the married couple Herman de Coninck and Kristien Hemmerechts.
At the creation of the Belgian state, French was the only official language. French was during a long period used as a second language in Flanders and, like elsewhere in Europe, commonly spoken among the aristocracy. There is still a French-speaking minority in Flanders, especially in the municipalities with language facilities, along the language border and the Brussels periphery (Vlaamse Rand), though many of them are French-speakers that migrated to Flanders in recent decades. Many Flemings are also able to speak French, but proficiency has been on the decline. French is the primary language in the officially bilingual Brussels Capital Region, (see Francization of Brussels). In French Flanders, French is now the native language of the majority of the population and the only official language. Historically it was a Dutch-speaking region and there's still a minority of Dutch-speakers living there.
The public radio and television broadcaster in Flanders is VRT, which operates the TV channels één, Canvas, Ketnet, OP12 and (together with the Netherlands) BVN. Flemish provinces each have up to two TV channels as well. Commercial television broadcasters include vtm and Vier (VT4). Popular TV series are for example Thuis and F.C. De Kampioenen.
The five most successful Flemish films were Loft (2008; 1,186,071 visitors), Koko Flanel (1990; 1,082,000 tickets sold), Hector (1987; 933,000 tickets sold), Daens (1993; 848,000 tickets sold) and De Zaak Alzheimer (2003; 750,000 tickets sold). The first and last ones were directed by Erik Van Looy, and an American remake is being made of both of them, respectively The Loft (2012) and The Memory of a Killer. The other three ones were directed by Stijn Coninx.
Newspapers are grouped under three main publishers: De Persgroep with Het Laatste Nieuws, the most popular newspaper in Flanders, De Morgen and De Tijd. Then Corelio with De Gentenaar, the oldest extant Flemish newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad and De Standaard. Lastly, Concentra publishes Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg.
- Burgundian Netherlands
- Count of Flanders
- Flemish Movement
- Flemish Parliament
- Flemish Primitives
- Seventeen Provinces