The Brussels Bike Hundred

100 portraits, stories and bicycles

We’re teaming up with Bike for Brussels to put together a 100-strong selection of local heroes shaping the city each in their own way. From designers and DJs to performers and publishers, these are the creatives riding Brussels forward.

Emmanuelle Nizou

Emmanuelle Nizou, 1982

artistic coordinator at Bellone

Describe yourself, your background and what you do today.

I’ve worked in performing arts for more than ten years as an artistic coordinator, notably for European network A Space for Live Art and Halles de Schaerbeek’s collaborative projects. I started working at La Bellone house of performing arts in 2016 and I coordinate the 3days4ideas pilot edition. Besides, I have also evolved in several art collectives, mainly with together with philosopher and playwright Camille Louis since 2010.  I co-founded Loop-s asbl/vzw together with artist Luce Goutelle in 2015 and I’m one of the five founding members of experimental researches lab Désorceler la finance. I’ve become an artistic collaborator for artists based in Brussels, ranging from dance (Louise Vanneste) to contextual arts.

How has Brussels shaped you as an individual as well as your professional activities?

It’s in Brussels that my professional life really took off. I had a few experiences in Paris but it’s here that I really immerse myself in the artistic world. It’s been easy and fluid. I was wimply lucky to meet beautiful people to move from one experience to another, from one community to another. I was able to confront myself to versatile personalities, autodidacts who gave the impression that you could reinvent yourself easily. I guess it shaped my social behaviour, the way I adapt to and embrace different work environments and how I build my relationships and live in the city. This confrontation gave birth to projects such as Approche, which I co-wrote with Loop-s in six cafés located in six different districts.

What do you like the most about Brussels?

We often hear that Brussels has the advantages of a capital city at a human scale; that we can cross the entire city quite fast; that you can have a decent place for an affordable price and still manage to go out. As cliché as it might sound, these qualities do make me want to stay in Brussels. The city is filled with contradictions and resists to all forms of planning. Its face isn’t homogenous; it’s constantly moving, although construction and road works lasting for months can give a lethargic feeling to the city.

Plus, from an architectural and urban point of you, it isn’t quite smooth either so you can pass by treasures for a very long time before someone finally makes you notice them. I think Brussels has an unbelievable creative potential and cycling gives you a better access to it. All you need to do is slightly change your habits. The city is an endless supply for creation. Unfortunately, some alternative bubbles tend to disappear, but I truly hope new ones will pop up.

What converted you to bicycle use?

I didn’t need anyone to convert me; I’ve been cycling ever since I was a kid. I still remember the beautiful blue Peugeot I received when I was 9. Back then I used to cycle mainly to go to the park or see my friends. It’s only later that the rust orange Peugeot I got at 14 became my loyal everyday friend to go to high school and escape whenever I needed to. When I was 16, I preferred getting on my bike to move around the city than get driving lessons. I’ve always enjoyed the freedom and autonomy it gave me. A bike gives you the possibility to go fairly far while staying in the heart of a landscape in which you can easily stop. No air or noise pollution: bikes almost melt in the landscape and create a sort of osmosis.

List three favourite bike routes in Brussels.

  • Forest/Vorst to Schaerbeek: I’ve used the same route every morning for years, going from Forest/Vorst to the Halles de Schaerbeek. This way enables you to cross the city from south to north, pass through three districts and experience various neighbourhoods and vibes. It’s like an accelerated micro sightseeing of Brussels – and a good way to experience different car drivers’ behaviours.
  • Forest/Vorst to Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijne: this is my everyday route and I like it just as much on the way back because it feels completely different depending on the day and time. It makes me go through mood swings, from indifference to joy and from interest to anger. It’s a great moment to unwind and whinge about the roads, traffic and never-ending work sites. It’s supposed to be an easy way but it’s never the case, because of the little obstacles I come across on the way. This is how I get started in the morning and unwind in the evening; like a daily ritual, a morning cigarette if you like. I miss it when I have to catch the tram instead.
  • Along the canal, heading south, preferably on a public holiday. No matter what your finale destination is, you can go as far as you want to. All you need to do is follow the Brussels-Charleroi canal. You’ll see Anderlecht’s houseboats and towers slowly disappear, giving place to a landscape of sand dunes, orange and grey gravels with concrete walls reshaped by successions of street artists in the background