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HALF BELGIUM

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    Musicians play the accordion during the Kraainem carnival parade on the edge of Brussels, Belgium, February 2013. Kraainem sits on the border between Dutch-speaking Flanders and Brussels, which has a bilingual French-speaking majority.
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    A stout Belgian horse grazes in a field, looked over by a water tower painted like a globe, in Opvelp, Belgium.
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    Residents of the city of Lessines play a game of pool inside a bar.
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    Visitors leave an art exhibition focused on women's issues in Braine-Le-Comte, Belgium.
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    Women attending a training for Flemish youth leaders play a game in which Dutch words are taped to their foreheads. Flemish government policy mandates that only the Dutch language may be used during government-sponsored events. Youth leaders receive special training in using alternatives to French to communicate with non-Dutch speakers.
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    Participants in a hairdressing contest in Brussels wait backstage, March 2013.
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    A man with his hood pulled up to fend off the cold stands near the canal in Halle, Belgium.
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    Men wear various animal costumes to attend a carnival in Halle, Belgium.
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    Two men wait in line for fries at a fair in the center of Geraardsbergen, Belgium. The fry stand's name is displayed in Dutch, French and English.
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    Spectators watch a boxing match in Flobecq, Belgium.
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    Actors run through a set made to look like a battlefield during the filming of Vlaamse Velden, a television show about WWI, in Veurne, Belgium.
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    Snow falls on a field in Overijse, Belgium.
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    Children with balloons dance in front of the castle of the Domaine Solvay in La Hulpe, Belgium, April 2013. Though the castle is managed by the Walloon Regional government, school groups from both French and Dutch-speaking communities make trips to visit the landmark.
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    Hooded Catholics participate in a Good Friday procession in Lessines. The procession is a tradition that dates back more than 500 years.
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    Girls prepare to march on Good Friday in Lessines. Many marchers wear hoods and carry torches for the procession.
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    Boxer Pascal Bouchez has cream applied to his bruises after being defeated in a boxing match in Flobecq, Belgium. Although the two boxers hail from different language communities that have a history of disagreements, the two men are friends and training partners.
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    A passenger rests on the train in Bierghes, Belgium.
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    Participants of the Saint Veroon procession in Lembeek dress in 19th century Belgian military uniforms to march along the language border on Easter Monday.
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    Participants in the Saint Veroon procession make a rest stop in Tubize, Belgium, as they follow the border between Flanders and Wallonia. Spectators of the procession hand alcoholic drinks to passing marchers, and participants can become quickly intoxicated.
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    The blades of a Tombeelmolen windmill are pushed to a start by Freddy Deweer in Outrijve.
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    Belgian football fans prepare for a World Cup qualifying match in Brussels, March 2013.
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    Snow falls on a rural road near Lessines.
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    Emmeline Vandeputte stands along the side of the street in Hoegaarden.
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    A boy dressed as Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte looks out to Waterloo battlefield through binoculars situated on top of the Lion's Mound in Waterloo, Belgium. Napoleon's historic loss to the the Duke of Wellington in 1815 prevented the surrounding territory from being incorporated with the kingdom of France. Instead, a buffer state of French and Dutch-speakers emerged into present-day Belgium.
Half Belgium

Belgium’s language border was established in 1963 with the hope of putting an end to the squabbles between the kingdom’s French-speaking and Dutch-speaking communities. Over the years, the line has been reinforced from the Flemish side with political, cultural, and economic pressure. Tensions between the two communities are rare among border residents, but they remain tense between opposing politicians. Starting in December 2011, the political dispute left Belgium without a government for 541 days.

The partition of Belgium is an imaginary line, running across fertile pastures, following rivers and occasionally cutting through the middle of a home. At the same time, identity and language in Belgium are complex, and often more polarized than relations between French and Dutch may seem. Within a few years, the language partition may be Europe’s newest national border, splitting the Republic of Flanders off from the Kingdom of Belgium.

For the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the border, in 2013, Tomas van Houtryve walked its entire length by foot. He observed the moods and the traditions of Belgium’s two halves in homes and villages along the way.

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