From the Sundance Film Festival winning director to the first Belgian stand-up comedian to fill Forest National, we’re rounding off the year with a 25-strong selection of notable Belgian personalities who have left their mark on 2017. Following on from Part 1, here’s the next installment of 8 of the strongest.

Photographer Eva Donckers (c).

Pablo Andres Hertsens for being the first Belgian comedian to fill-up Forest National

I was born in Brussels, and I’ve lived here my entire life. My father is Belgian and my mother Mexican, which probably explains why I love tacos. I use all kinds of tools to create really silly shit with the goal to make people laugh, something that has allowed me to remain a child as long as possible. My philosophy consists of two aspecrs: having fun and learning by doing. I set myself challenges knowing fully they are too big for me, and that the results won’t be perfect – but I know that I will learn something from it and be stronger afterwards. Recently, I managed to bring together 7,000 people for my show at Forest National, something I’ll never forget, and –  at the risk of sounding like one of those self-help coaches full of positive thinking catchphrases on YouTube – it proves that dreams really can come true if you work hard enough and believe in it. Professionally, and after ten long years of hard work, 2017 was clearly the best year yet – everything took off. Indeed, to me the year was like a giant taco with shrimp, guacamole and lemon. With some good Belgian trappist beer on the side. Too juicy, too spicy and too good.

Pablo (37) is a Brussels-based comedian, writer and actor.

Pieter-Jan De Pue for storming Sundance with his movie The Land of the Enlightened

I was born in Ghent, but since making The Land of the Enlightened I’ve been spending more time in Afghanistan and abroad than at home. I travel a lot so home is kind of everywhere and nowhere, with all the advantages and disadvantages that may bring. I’ve always been a curious person, and film became a way for me to explore and discover – something I’d love to continue doing for the rest of my life. The release of The Land of the Enlightened was quite a success: after winning the Special Jury Award for Best Cinematography at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film was shown at about 100 festivals around the world and won several other awards. Including a Vlaamse Cultuurprijs award for film from the Ministry of Culture of Flanders, which was a great honour. But personally, screening the film in Afghanistan in 2017 and showing it to the children I had collaborated with during all those years was my biggest highlight. It felt like everything had finally come together when seeing the results all together in the mountains of Afghanistan, and it’s safe to say that that beats any festival screenings or awards.

Pieter-Jan (35) is a Belgian director.

WIELS for asking the right questions with The Absent Museum

This year marked our 10th anniversary. When we opened in 2007, I remember someone telling us “If you last a decade, you will exist forever!” This year was intense yet joyful, with hordes of hard work put in. What more could we ask for? The highlight was hands-down our large-scale exhibition The Absent Museum. Combining our building with the two neighbouring spaces BRASS and the semi-ruined Métropole building allowed us to showcase the artworks in very different architectural spaces. It also served as an opportunity for us to look back at the beginnings of WIELS, and see how much things have changed over the last decade. Looking back, we feel that people should have more faith in the ability of the public to engage with complex projects. The cultural sector keeps being told by funders and politicians that the public is only concerned with entertainment but our experience has proved that there’s an appetite for thought-provoking exhibitions too.

Dirk Snauwaert (54) is director of contemporary art centre WIELS, who in 2018 will be putting on an exhibition by Brussels’ Koenraad Dedobbeleer.

Stroom for a stellar schedule of releases

Everything I do is underpinned by wanting to share, promote and manage musical heritage. 2017 was a significant year because many different roads in my life all led to one point: my label work, radio shows, friends, working together with my girlfriend again – It feels as though everything kind of came together this year. Overall, 2017 is a year that will serve as a big trampoline for the future. Additional highlights were of course all the Stroom releases that ended up in stores all over the world. I hope that we’ll be able to keep this up for 2018, and that we can inject more pride and joy into this sector as well as achieving a decent balance between exoticism and working with what’s in front of us.

Ziggy Devriendt (29), better known as Nosedrip, is the founder of music label Stroom.

Crevette for uniting the scene

2017 was the year I embarked on many new projects; all linked in one way or another to my record shop, Crevette Records. It’s become my full-time job this year, and by now we’ve already tripled our vinyl stock. I also launched a sister label Crevette Records, with a first release by disco two-piece Vitesse. It was a great learning opportunity in terms of vinyl production, and I loved getting to work with my best friends. Seeing that the record’s doing very well – even selling out – is an added bonus. Additionally, I started the vinyl distribution platform Crevette Distribution, where we distribute strictly Belgian labels all around the world. Becoming the first distribution point of Belgian sounds in Tokyo was a proud achievement although above and beyond that, helping and supporting local labels and artists get their name out in record shops overseas remains the most rewarding. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve any of this without my strong team, so I’d like to thank them for making this a year I’ll never forget, where many of my dreams came true. I’m confident that there’s still plenty more to do and achieve in our country on a musical level though. There’s some great stuff being created here at the moment, but it still tends to be shun away from the public eye. Thankfully, this is slowly changing. It’s great to see projects come to fruition, and that we’re able to provide these labels with a platform through which they can further develop.

Pim Thomas (26) is founder of Crevette Records.

Zwangere Guy for ubiquitous live performances and incomparable stage presence

Zwangere Guy (29) is a Brussels-based rapper. 

TOTUM’s Bar Bricolage for sprucing up the neighbourhood

After years of working at and supporting other small projects, it felt amazing to finally establish our own this year with TOTUM. Our goal is to create a setting for artists and projects, by providing practical and technical help so that they’re able to concentrate on their own work. As such, our highlight of the year was undoubtedly the launch of Bar Bricolage – we built a bar and restaurant in an old factory garden, where we host a broad cultural program. We often collaborate with different organisations, providing them with the necessary equipment and space for their own concepts. It’s our first and biggest project to date, and a perfect example of the way we work. After having worked on it for roughly half a year, our opening weekend was almost surreal: the warm and enthusiastic reactions of our first visitors were an lovely confirmation of our efforts. We want to foster an open atmosphere where people can discover and experience culture in many different ways, while also providing opportunities to beginners in an intimate and inviting setting. We also supported NEST this year – a new and fairly large open-sourced project in Ghent –, as well as the international festival Waking Life in Crato, Portugal. The relationships we established throughout 2017 will be beneficial for years to come, with plenty of seeds for new collaborations sown..

TOTUM is a Ghent-based cultural platform, founded in the spring of 2016 by Ignaas Vancottem (27), Arno De Graeve (30) and Lucas Standaert (28).

Philippe Carly for documenting the early days of Brussels’ underground scene with Au Plan K

I’m mainly interested in portraiture, where photographs are my version of Proustian madeleines. I believe in telling stories through my images, and making my subjects look good. Photographs that the subjects would want to share with their loved ones. One instrumental source in my photography was my father, who taught me the craft and nurtured my nascent interest. Equally important was growing up in the explosive punk scene, which installed a very powerful ethos in me: don’t be afraid to make whatever you want, regardless of whether it’s good or bad, accepted or rejected, unsurprising or unexpected of you. All that matters is energy and passion – just do it. In that sense, 2017 was an amazing year for me. I finally accepted myself as an artist, learned to trust myself more, met some amazing people and, more importantly, published my book Au Plan K, a project I first dreamed up 14 years ago. It’s a life-long accomplishment – of which I’m really proud – which allowed me to finally stop questioning my legitimacy as a photographer. A personal highlight of mine was hands down the book signing with Peter Hook, as receiving an endorsement from such a musical genius was beyond unbelievable.

Philippe Carly (61) is a Brussels-based photographer.