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.