Maarten Inghels Prize 2023 & Vincent Van Meenen Prize 2023
Since 2018, the Maarten Inghels Prize and the Vincent Van Meenen Prize have been Flanders’ leading literary prizes. These are annual literary prizes whose winners receive a trophy or a money prize.
In 2018 the €7,500 in prize money of the Vincent Van Meenen Prize went to Maarten Inghels and as the winner of the Maarten Inghels prize, Vincent Van Meenen received the same amount. In 2019 the prize consisted of two Ford Fiestas who swapped owners. In 2020 Maarten Inghels and Vincent Van Meenen awarded each other a copper star that was integrated into the Antwerp street scene. Due to the indignation of the Jewish community the stars were removed again the following day.
In 2021 chains of office were exchanged on the Staalmeestersbrug (‘The Love Bridge’) in Amsterdam, finally realising the international ambitions of the prize. At a moderately attended 2022 ceremony at Passa Porta Bookshop in Brussels, the two modelled their own challenge cup from a block of clay.
The prizes are humoristic performances in the best tradition of Robert Filliou’s ‘Art’s Birthday’ that mock the customs of the art world. The organising committee of the prizes changes each year. In the past Idris Sevenans, Barbara Geenen, Antwerpen Boekenstad, Das Mag publishers and Passa Porta assisted the artists. In 2023 Watou Arts Festival hosted the award ceremony and personalised cakes were exchanged.
Alsane Thengrim (2023)
During his visit to the Groigne bunker in the Westhoek, Maarten Inghels hears about a bizarre urban legend. During the Great War, foreign troops supposedly brought elephants onto the battlefield in Flanders. Although these are total fabrications, they nevertheless spark his imagination.
The source of the legend is a peculiar building in Oudekapelle with a pointed horseshoe-shaped entrance adorned with Arabic inscriptions. Freely translated, the inscriptions read as follows: “There is no greater god than Allah. If you believe in Allah, you will triumph like the victories over Tadmur and Namar”. This proves the presence of Senegalese troops, who served in the French army during the war and were stationed in the so-called ‘Senegalese bunker’, which was situated between the first and second Belgian defensive line, some three kilometres northwest of the front.
The story reminds Inghels of Hannibal, who led his army of elephants across the Alps from France into Italy. Historians are still trying to reconstruct Hannibal’s exact route based on dung deposits and the genealogy of hiking trails. Inghels constructs several life-size cardboard elephants based on the design of the children of Watou’s local elementary school De Waaier. Together they bring the herd to life in the Helleketel forest. They make imprints in the mud and leave behind elephant drolls to add substance to the legend. A video is made of the parade.
In addition Inghels also supplies a poem by Senegalese poet Alsane Thengrim, who claims to have witnessed the presence of elephants at the front first-hand. The poem keys into the moving power the ‘War Poets’ are able to arouse. World War I is known as ‘the literary war’, during which thousands of lines of poetry were written. However, the voice of the colonial troops has not yet been found.
Together, the video, the elephants and the poem constitute a confusing mix of historic fact and fiction. As such the artwork criticises the stereotypes around new cultures and focuses our attention on the contribution of colonial troops to the war effort. At the same time, it caters to our desire for mythologisation and tales of heroism.
Maarten Inghels is a visual artist, writer and poet who often works around myth-making, docufiction and the friction between public and private. He makes books, performances and installations.