Image: Eddy Verloes Photography
The exhibition ‘Losing Our Minds’ is on until August 15 in the Maagdenhuis in Antwerp. The exhibition provides an original look at Jewish culture through photos, poems and music. On Sunday the exhibition and the accompanying book-cum-cd were presented, with a mini-concert by Boogie Boy as a bonus.
For photographer Eddy Verloes, it all started when he headed to the Belgian coast on a stormy day last year. “On the beach at Bredene, I ran into a group of Orthodox Jews from Antwerp. For a moment I imagined myself in a surrealist movie with all those black fluttering shapes. This I must photograph.” Barely an hour later, the images were canned. “They were of a special beauty, sometimes cinematic, other times almost a painting. I sent them to international photo competitions, winning the ‘Travel Photographer of the Year Award,’ among others. Not bad for a trip to the coast,” Eddy laughs.
The people in the photos were deliberately not portrayed recognizably. At least, that’s what the photographer thought anyway. “When I was eating at Hoffy’s restaurant on Lange Kievitstraat, the proprietor was leafing through my book. He was moved to tears and suddenly said, ‘Hey, that’s my grandson!”
Guido Joris, editor of the Antwerp magazine Joods Actueel, was also impressed and put Verloes in touch with Benno Barnard, a poet with a penchant for Jewish culture. Barnard created a poem to accompany about ten photographs. These were then translated into English and set to music by The River Curls Around The Town.
On Sunday, journalist Geert Van Istendael, Benno Barnard (virtually, because he now lives in England) and Paul Ambach also contributed to the program. The famous Antwerp blues and soul singer, better known as Boogie Boy, performed a Jewish traditional and a unique cover of “What a Wonderful World“, a song he also sang partly in Antwerp dialect and Yiddish. Not a random choice: “Just as Hendrik Conscience taught his people to read, Louis Armstrong – who was adopted by a Jewish family and spoke Yiddish – did so with swing. And what does Boogie Boy bring? Swing!”
Boogie Boy was given a print of “The Sea Watcher” by Eddy Verloes to take home. “A very special picture. The people are looking at the sea and the movement of the waves looks like the way a Jew prays, moving from left to right. There’s swing in that, too.”
Paul Ambach: “Our community is portrayed here in a very nice way. It is a perfect response to what is shown at the carnival in Aalst, which is reminiscent of caricatures from the 1930s. In these pictures, as a real Antwerpian, but non-religious Jew, I also recognize myself.”
Was Sunday’s concert his first since the lockdown? “Absolutely not. I perform everywhere possible. So far it has been to an audience of 50, but now it may be more again. I’ve been in the desert for a while. Not as long as Moses, but I still wanted to get back to my promised land as soon as possible. With a stage and an audience.“