From big names to newcomers, these are the 25 most prominent figures and collectives shaking things up in Belgium this year. Whether they visibly made their mark and established themselves in their respective field, gave back considerably to their scene or sparked debate by shining a light on a certain issue, consciously or otherwise, these are the people that deserve a mention this year. Make sure to check out Part I and III here.

C12 for giving back to nightlife

Launched in February this year by Brussels nightlife key players Deep In House, C12 has become an essential venue for those who like to dance, party and appreciate quality electronic music. Nestled under Brussels Central Station, in the Horta Gallery, the deep and dark room offers an immersive experience combined with quality line-ups inviting internationally acclaimed DJs, while still turning the spotlight on the local scene. Instead of riding solo, Tom Brus (1991), Mathieu Serra (1992) and Kevin Huerta van Ellinkhuizen (1988) decided to invite a whole range of collectives and party organisers on Thursdays, giving them a chance to host quality events in a popular venue, making C12 an even more eclectic stage. Although the venue offers killer parties every weekend, it’s not just a nightclub, but rather a multi- disciplinary space for arts, live concerts and exhibitions. Indeed, the gallery also hosts C5, a white exhibition display case dedicated to visual arts, as well as C11, which sometimes serves as a second party room but has also hosted in the past a tattoo salon, beatmaking sessions and our very own 10-year anniversary retrospective exhibition. They recently started editorialising their content, explaining the curatorial choices they make each month. What also contributes to the success of C12 is its open mind. Not only has the team hosted numerous LGBTQI parties such as Gay Haze, Catclub and Bénédiction, they also make a point of calling their venue a safe space for creativity, freedom and diversity. Something so clearly felt by the audience, making us come back every weekend for more.

Mika Oki for kicking off a promising career

Ever since Mika Oki (1990) was selected to be one of 2018’s SHAPE artists, we’ve been seeing her presence on the scene explode – and all the better. The Franco-Japanese visual and sound artist – and one half of The Word Radio – has long been creating otherworldly and esoteric sound installations that go beyond the sonic, creating a certain textuality and abstract emotiveness that is not to be undermined. Heavily influenced by her background in sculpture and electro-acoustics, she has also begun to translate her psycho-acoustic touch into DJ sets and radio shows, branching out into techno, bass and grime. Besides numerous club bookings and radio slots, SHAPE has seen Oki spread her rule-breaking sonic takes at Kampala’s Nyege Nyege Festival, Ljubljana’s SONICA Festival, Berlin Atonal and Brussels’ schiev festival. Full support.

Lukas Dhont for ascending the steps of Cannes Festival with Girl

15-year old Lara dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. With the support of her father, she commits her body and soul to this enterprise – yet her body doesn’t see it that way, because she was born a boy. With his movie Girl, Lukas Dhont (1991) tells the story of Lara’s sex change in parallel with the moulding of her body as a ballerina. There’s something very carnal about the movie, as it focusses on Lara’s body through her ballet moves, the physical pain she endures to catch up with the other girls, her bloody feet, her missing breasts and the burden she carries between her legs. Girl’s world première at Cannes Festival was applauded with a 15-minute standing ovation and won the Caméra d’Or award for best first feature film as well as the Queer Palm. Young Belgian actor Victor Polster’s acting skills didn’t go unnoticed neither, as he won the Un Certain Regard Jury Award for Best Performance. That said, gender remains a sensitive issue and the movie was criticised by some LGBTQI militant organisations, pointing out that the movie nurtured clichés by picturing a teenager who’s obsessed with her transition and genetalia, to the point where she puts herself in danger. Still, Dhont’s work was acclaimed by the press, movie reviews and festivals in Belgium and abroad for its beautiful story that doesn’t undermine its integrity and a theme that, still today, remains controversial.

Laisse les filles tranquilles for not bowing down to the patriarchy

In the midst of the #MeToo movement and increasing frustration with double standards to outright aggression, three Brussels-based women decided to put their money where their mouth is and take to the streets. Fed up with the ongoing street harassment and catcalling which unfortunately still pervades the women of Belgium, Laisse les filles tranquilles sneak out late at night clad in balaclavas and makeshift guerrilla wear to glue, paste, paint and pencil on Brussels’ walls, bus stops and pavements. With a bold and abrasive typography, there is no mincing of their eponymous slogan, “leave girls alone” – which is also sometimes revised to include the queer community. In actuality, the three founders had been sitting on the idea for four years before finding the courage to jump into action at the very start of this year. And it’s proven more than successful: the collective is growing by the day, as cis-, trans- and non-binary women can sign up to the good fight rather freely. Finally, their adamant perquisite for anonymity is not only a choice of practicality, or to avoid vandalisation offences. It’s precisely in them being nameless and faceless that Laisse les filles tranquilles are able to speak on behalf of the feminine collective. In reclaiming our streets, let’s hope that they’ll knock some sense into us all.

Cleveland for going international

This year, Brussels-based DJ and producer Andrea Mancini (1989), aka Cleveland, decided to focus exclusively on his music, and rightly so. Elsewhere in New York, Melt Festival in Germany, Heaven in Moscow, Breakfast Club in Tel Aviv… Cleveland really took off this year, literally. Besides clubs and festivals, he also found his way to some of the most influential online community radio stations, from bagging a residency at Amsterdam’s Red Light Radio to doing a guest show at London’s favourite NTS. His focus, nonetheless, wasn’t only on his DJ career, but also on producing new music. After releasing tracks on Barcelona record label Hivern Discs the last two years, his latest release was issued on Los Angeles-based established label ESP Institute. Hard work pays off.

Philippe Close for being on the road to restoring Brussels to sanity

The Parti Socialiste took a massive blow in light of the public mandate scandal that took over the country, and specifically the SamuSocial fiasco which lead to Yvan Mayeur having to step down as Mayor of the City of Brussels. So it was all the more sweet when his successor Philippe Close (1971) was officially elected during the October elections, solidifying his right to lead the City alongside Ecolo and newcomers The Namur native has been a Brussels local ever since moving there at the age of 10, and eventually entered the socialist world of politics as the spokesperson for Elio Di Rupo in 2000, closely followed by the role of Chief of State of the then Mayor of the City of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans. In 2006 he was elected the City’s Alderman of Tourism and Personnel, which kickstarted his ongoing commitment to making tourism a key economic development sector, generating not only wealth but also employment for the city. This was precisely around the time that he became the driving force behind numerous event-based tourism bodies, such as Brussels Major Events, Bruxelles-les-Bains and non-profit Brussels Expo to name but a few. Fast-forward to the run up to the elections, Close’s campaign promised some intriguing changes, such as his Tout à 10 minutes plan to better the proximity and quality of the City’s numerous infrastructures, implying that more resources and spaces would be made available easily to everyone. More interesting perhaps is the joint campaign for “good governance”, vowing to create citizen councils or municipal initiatives in a bid to increase citizen participation in local politics. And it’s paid off, as they were able to bag the majority mid-October. In fact, many often posited that Close was actually the “real” mayor during the reign of Thielemans, pulling the ropes behind the curtain. With local, regional and even federal politics being in the total state of disarray that they are, Close brings such much-needed transparency and sanity to the top job.

Kevin “Alabi” Teirbrood for dropping the year’s best political meme

As summer was coming to an end, politicians and their parties scrambled all over the country with their campaign posters, letters, shows and slogans in a bid to gather votes for the upcoming October local elections. This wasn’t just limited to the men in suits however, as citizens jumped in on the fun and took the opportunity to create their own share of tongue-in-cheek commentaries and satirical parodies to lighten the sometimes-stale mood. Then came the best political meme that we’ve seen in a long time: a reinterpretation of the far-right N-VA’s somewhat obscene campaign poster format exploded on our screens, making us howl in the office. A little digging showed that the mystery man displayed in this political riff – “Zwart De Bever” – is in fact Kevin Alabi aka Suave, owner of Labi Barbershop. An Antwerp-based neighbourhood barbershop complete with a street wear thrift store, boasting the cleanest fades in the area – and as it turns out, hysterical political humour. An absolutely fantastic marketing ploy – after all, all he was trying to do was communicate to his customers that he was no longer accepting student discounts. Simple and familiar yet going for the jugular, the artwork achieves everything, and more, a meme is meant to.

Hiele for a stellar Boiler Room debut

Boiler Room teamed up with Huawei this summer to present New Forms, a series of events across Europe which would showcase the continent’s new generation of synth-loving electronic producers. Dedicated to all things Artificial Intelligence, the event sees a true crossover between sound and visual art, while all being filmed on the sponsor’s new smartphone. So it’s no surprise then that the Paris edition brought over Hiele to share the line-up with Stellar OM Source, Eva Papamargariti, Oklou and Crystallmess. First name Roman (1991), the Antwerp native and co-founder of hard-hitting label Ekster shut it down with a spectacular live set – of which we got our own taste at our 10-year anniversary bash. Infectiously crunchy beats and tangy, sour acid synths using strictly drum machines and pedals, Hiele demonstrated a controlled precision throughout. Thanks to his flawless build-up during this hour-long performance, Hiele had everyone bouncing around the room, both on- and offscreen. Yet as ever with such a bold show, reviews were hugely polarised with critics abound, collecting live comments that only Boiler Room could ever attract. You can’t win everyone over – but he definitely impressed us.