International Exhibition of Colonial, Maritime and Flemish Art Antwerp 1930

Colonial, maritime and Flemish Art

April 26, 1930 - November 4, 1930


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Belgian Halls

Belgian Halls at the Exhibition Expo Antwerp 1930

© Hersleven

Architect(s) : M. Smolderen

They are divided quite naturally into two main groups, devoted respectively to the activity of the Belgians in Africa, and to all the industrial activities of the Belgians according to their colonial destination.
In one group as in the other, we have tried to get off the beaten track, by presenting as much as possible attractive and lively ensembles, either by panoramas or by machines in working order.

The demonstrations of the Belgians in Africa straddle the two halls, i.e. in the parts of them closest to the Palais des Colonies.

First of all, we shall visit the class of extractive industries, that is to say, products extracted from the soil, copper, iron, radium ores, diamonds and other precious stones, which constitute one of the main riches of the Colony and especially of the provinces of Katanga and Kasai. All our major Congolese mining companies will exhibit magnificent stands here.
The corner pavilion of one of the halls, adjoining the mining group, is partly devoted to an exhibition of cut diamonds, an organisation entrusted to the powerful Antwerp Jewellers Federation.

Next door is the exhibition of transport to the colonies. This includes a complete colonial train, measuring 120 metres in length, with locomotive, lounge car, dining car, sleeping car, van, tipper car, etc., as well as some of the important colonial railroad equipment for the 1.06 metre gauge.

The part of the right-hand hall closest to the Palais des Colonies is reserved for the livestock and agriculture group. Here, again, cleverly arranged and illuminated dioramas will give a vivid view of the typical agricultural regions of the Congo, the cotton, palm, elaîs and coffee plantations, the forestry operations, and the famous elephant farm of Api.

The groups relating to Belgian activity in Africa are framed by our industrial and commercial export activities, in short, everything that is necessary for our operations in all fields.

First of all, there is the electricity group, which will cover 1,500 metres and where you will see, mostly in operation, dynamos, motors suitable for the colonies, accumulators, electric fans, refrigerators, lamps, wireless telegraphy equipment, transmitters and receivers.

Next to this comes the economic industries group, which has taken the original form of a large repair workshop in the Congo, with all its special equipment in working order, machine tools, drills, etc.

The textile group, which is becoming increasingly important in the Congo, occupies 4,000 square metres. It shows the industrial use of cotton, hemp, jute, mechanical looms, and carding machines in operation, as we already see them working in the Congo.

The clothing group, while giving a legitimate place to colonial clothing, is not limited to white, but will also be a centre of attraction for visitors. Our large firms, with the help of dioramas and skilfully presented mannequins, show that they can happily compete with Parisian haute couture.

The group of miscellaneous industries is not without attraction either. It includes leather goods, leathers, chemical industries, tobacco, printing, photography, etc., in their most modern aspects.
One of the most important groups is that of furniture, which covers some 5,000 square metres. In the front, the Belgian Section's main hall is a large reception room from the new palace of the Governor-General of Congo in Kinshasa, designed for the Belgian government by the beautiful artist Moenaerts.

The other stands of the furniture group all present complete and homogeneous ensembles. In order to avoid the disconcerting appearance of a series of tables, cupboards and lighting fixtures, the rule that prevailed at the 1925 Paris Decorative Arts Exhibition, and which was a large part of its success, has been adopted in this respect. The visitor has the illusion of walking through as many rooms of an ideal European settler's house. As in Paris, the artists and performers of each "ensemble" will be judged jointly by the jury, who will obviously have to take into account not only the artistic character of the furnishings, but also their adaptation to the special conditions existing in the tropics.

Music, which plays an important role in the life of the settler, has not been forgotten. Three to four hundred square metres have been reserved for it. One will see all that the ingenuity of industrialists has achieved, especially in terms of mechanical devices, talking machines, radio, etc., to charm the solitude of the bush.

Here again an interesting innovation was achieved. The music group is housed in small salon-nets insulated by soundproof walls which, contrary to what happens in most exhibitions, make it possible to give demonstrations without falling into a cacophony.

The rest of the Belgian rooms are occupied by the Maritime Section (3,000 to 4,000 square metres). Here our major shipping companies present in a lively manner the activity of the Belgians in this important, even vital, branch of the transport industries.

We have already mentioned one of the corner pavilions of the Belgian halls. The second and third pavilions are occupied by chocolate and biscuit makers, two of our most interesting export industries to the colonies, who have made a fine effort to present their various products in an instructive and attractive manner. The other food groups were also on display.

The fourth corner pavilion was reserved for Sweden, which thus occupied some 600 square metres. The organisers of the Exhibition, by giving Sweden a place in the Belgian section, wanted to show the importance they attach to its collaboration in our great national independence celebrations.

The Belgian halls have a great effect. Conceived on a new plan, which avoids the use of canopies and gives a magnificent daylight, they also give, thanks to special measures, a much more complete and continuous view than anything that has been done in this type of construction up to now.

Thus, all panels or counter-bulkheads that could break the perspective have been avoided. All the display windows are fitted with glass on all four sides. This means that there are no isolated or lost corners in the entire section.

Nothing has been neglected to maintain the attractiveness of the Belgian section in the evening. The Palais des Colonies will have all its edges brilliantly highlighted with neon tubes in blue, yellow and red.

The two large halls, on the other hand, are preceded by a covered gallery giving a perspective of 900 metres in one piece. And not only will this gallery be illuminated, but it is separated from the interior stands only by large windows; and as it has been foreseen that these stands facing the gardens will be brilliantly illuminated, one will be able to enjoy, after the closure of the halls, the view of an important part of their wonders.

© Guide Officiel - Anvers 1930