A Place for Cultural Exchange – Antique Markets in Brussels

In the North of Brussels between the royal square and Nord Station lies a market with vendors of antiques and where you can buy “little things,” as one police man describes it.

Lots of little things

Lots of little things

Holding a piece of paper with the destination scribbled on the back, I maneuvered my way through the zigg-zagged streets of Brussels until I saw the ever so familiar square divided up into sections. Strolling the isles, the men seemed to gather from ethnic origins of Africa, the Middle East,  Eastern Europe, coming to display their possessions for sale.

Munching on a sausage bought nearby, the mustered oozed out the end and one of the venders shouted, “bon appetite” as I fumble with my layers, oversized bag, and notebooks. I watched as others sipped their small cups of tea brought in wired cup holders seen in the bazaars of South Asia. I watched the men greet each other, holding hands and embracing with genuine respect and giddiness as though long lost friends. They yelled in arabic and gestured to the cafe shop across the street ordering 3 coffees.

A whirling mixture of cultures seemed to blend together, separate from the outside world of Brussels. A woman of caucasian descent told me she is selling jewellery for a local silver smith and I took note of the only other 2 women within the  market that were selling their objects.

Inspired, unable to hold back, I found a slim place between a tree and a table where old camera parts lay. I scribbled thoughts down, my heart seems to be finally pouring out with curiosity. Local occupants of Brussels and tourists squeezed by me to finger through the objects with little acknowledgment. I too, at that moment had become apart of the whirlwind of ethnic and cultural behavior, I too had traveled to be in this bazaar, I too was in engaged in the negotiation of all it had to offer.

As my personal journey with this obsessed area of cultural exchange between both foreigners,  neighboring cultures, ethnic powers, and gendered powers led me to questions of design, how long has the bazaar been there, has it moved, why and how did it arise, how has it changed over time, how as the environment restricted the growth of the bazaar? What are the characteristics of its venders, do they move, float, are they stationary, where do they come from, how do they get there? My curiosity grew with thoughts of how the vendors became connected to their objects and themed sales, what were the cultural biography of the objects?

The Office

The Office

I perused further observation in gender relations, power relations of ethnicity and age. I questioned the journeys of men venturing into the life of a merchant and into these manhoods and  tradition, I wondered about their homes, I desired to know their perceptions of their realities, on the shifting dynamics within the market. Mostly, I wanted to understand their personal stories of migration to their current square plot in the market .


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