The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Aldo Neri

Aldo Neri

Founder, Aldo bakery

Can you describe what you do? Where you are based, the neighbourhood you live in, your daily routine, the people you work with, the scene you feel the closest to.

I have an artisan bakery in Oud-Berchem, with an open workspace and a simple shop attached to it. I make bread in a traditional French way, using only flour, water, salt, sourdough and my hands. In essence it’s a very simple product, but that is precisely what makes it so complex. Artisan bread baking is a really fine, really specific craft. And I really feel like the neighbourhood is very much involved with what we are doing here. There are honest people, looking for honest products and honest stories. They appreciate what we do, and are sincere in there feedback. It’s a warm place to be.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

I think it’s hard to talk about Antwerp as if it were one entity you could describe. Antwerp is not even a huge city, but it consists of so many different neighbourhoods, and therefore different people, different characteristics, different vibes. Which is probably true for any other city.

What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives? What gives the city its edge?

Exactly that versatility. Whatever you do, whichever kind of person you are, wherever you come from, you’ll find a place and a group of people you feel related to. It’s a matter of taking your time to get to know the city in all its facets.

How would you say Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Like probably anywhere else, it’s the people who define the city – or town, or country, or world for that matter. I met a lot of people in Antwerp who are now very close to my heart. Like the farmer on the market, because I know the field his vegetables come from. Like the guy at the record store, because he knows every single record in his shop. Or the guy who serves my coffee, because he roasted the beans himself, just the day before. I’m sure that that’s what people are looking for: true stories from people they can trust. Especially in food. You’d want to trust the person who creates the food that goes into your body, right?

My wish for this city is for small creators to succeed in creating something truly honest, something that breathes their soul.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

Real, pure craftsmanship. Honest and good stuff. I know that there are many craftsmen and artists out there already who do amazing stuff. But still, so often products, art or whatever get hyped, and people spend a lot of money on it, just because of well-conceived marketing strategies. It’s just so easy to make people believe stuff to make them buy your product. I think it’s our job to teach people to use their senses, to taste, see, smell, feel and hear the difference. What’s a place worth if there’s no soul in it? How can anyone put everything he has into something which doesn’t truly come from his soul? I don’t understand how that’s satisfying. Unfortunately, too often, it’s the people with cash who get to realize big projects, because they always seem to be able to build a nice story around it. My wish for this city is for small creators to succeed in creating something truly honest, something that breathes their soul.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of- towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

Try to avoid staying only in the city centre. You should probably check out the must-see’s in your tourist guide. But don’t get stuck in the tourist traps. Rent a bike and go explore the Middelheim Museum, cool down from the summer heat at Noordkasteel and get a feel of the down-to-earth atmosphere of Oud-Berchem at café Stanny.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

The neighbourhood is full of musicians, artists and other talented people, but one of my favorites is the painter Guy Van Bossche. He’s an interesting man, very talented, no bullshit. He comes to the bakery for his ‘takkebrood’.

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Photography Joke De Wilde