SONGLINES - Annick Donkers
Australian aborigines walk their land and sing songs in order to give life to the earth. Their songlines stretch across the continents and ages; wherever men have trodden, they have left a trail of song.

I wanted to walk through my own country, exploring historical sites and places from childhood memory, creating my own “lines”. I wanted to rediscover Belgium, visiting places that were important to me in the past and therefore also connected to my present. I wanted to bring back the memories and sentiments of my childhood in the 70’s in the Flemish countryside. My search resulted in a nostalgic and poetic journey through childhood memories and my country's identity.

This series is part of the project ‘Pretérito Imperfecto’ with Elizabeth Andriopulos and Elizabeth Vinck, curated by Ana Casas Broda.

(Belgium - 2011)


I live in Antwerp since the late 90’s.
What for me as a child was the big city is now nothing more than a small town.
The view out of my window is grey, it rains the whole time and the routine is killing me. My neighbors are foreign. I feel like one of them.

My friends abroad ask me what my country is like.
I find it hard to give them an answer.
I can’t tell about my country’s history.
I don’t know the national hymn.
I even don’t know if I am supposed to be proud to be a Belgian.

I am going on a trip in my own country.
I am visiting places of importance in Belgian history.
Just to testify what it is like.
To remember something.
To feel some kind of connection.

I am celebrating traditions together with the Belgians.
Traditions I thought they were already forgotten.
It reminds me of my childhood in the 70’s when there still was local community life and where the neighbors gathered and the children played together.

I was brought up at the countryside in the Flemish part of Belgium, close to the Netherlands, the country where my ancestors came from.
It was the 70’s and the sky seemed eternal blue, the sun shining with no clouds.
Our house was surrounded with cornfields. It made the house separated from the outside world in summer. Until autumn arrived and the harvest started.

I am going back to the region where I come from, the places that were important for me as a child. Lots of the places have gone I sometimes only find remains of it.

I am searching my old family album to look back at my childhood. I find lots of pictures of me as a child because my father was an amator photographer and I was his favorite model. I never picked up a camera as a child but since the age of 2 I was hooked on drawing.

My favorite pop group Abba won the Eurovision Songfestival in 1974. The song was called “Waterloo” and I never understood what it really was about.

The village I lived in was catholic. I attended nun schools, because they were the best and in fact there were no other ones for girls. Every 3 months we were brought to church to confess the sins we made up just before.

Both of my parents were born just before the World War II.
My mum kept telling that the soldiers were nice and gave her bread and sweets. I never understood the fear they must have been through when German bombs were dropped.

We never went abroad on holiday during summer. We made daytrips to the Fairytale Park in the Netherlands instead.
At the age of 10 I went to the Belgian coast for the first time. I immediately found my little friend, his name was Andreas, he was German and although I didn’t understand him at all, we played the whole day together.

The Dutch border was only 30 km’s away from where we lived. We visited the neighbors often, passing the customs that mostly stopped you for a passport check and changing Belgian Frank into Dutch Guilder. The customs have been gone now and the money became the Euro. We are supposed to be all European citizens now.

My friends abroad ask me what my country is like.
I still find it hard to give them an answer.
I show them the pictures instead.