In 1969, Black Venus was awarded the Driejaarlijkse Staatsprijs voor Proza [Triennial State Prize for Prose]. In 2015, on the occasion of the death of its author, the novel was added to the official Canon of Flemish-Dutch Literature, only to be scrapped again five years later. The commission considered Geeraerts’ representations of colonialism and women nauseating. The book is teeming with abuse of power, distorted imagery of women and ‘savages’, blatant racism, and endless pornographic passages involving minors.
How should we handle our lauded literary heritage when it is considered hurtful and gross today, and when in fact that was the case for many all along? Can old, historically praised artworks be upheld now that their painful philosophies make us cringe with shame?
Schaambot is a joint creation by a young Black actress (Musia Mwankumi) and a middle-aged white actor (Valentijn Dhaenens). Together, they take on Geeraerts’ novel and question the reading of the book today. Schaambot is a conversation between two people of today about what they are ashamed of, what makes them indignant, what they call art, and whether or not it is timeless.