Sand Sculpture Festival 2005: “Belgium, A Very Different Story”

Toots Thielemans- for the Grateful Web
Belgium- for the Grateful Web

On August 4, my grandmother (who is in her late eighties but still very fit!) and I decided to go and see the sand sculptures in Blankenberge. It was already the fourth time this town at the Belgian coast organized the Sand Sculpture Festival, but we both never managed to go there, until now...


In spite of the current uncertain summer, we were very lucky since it was the sunniest day of the week. After a forty-minute-train-ride and a ten-minute-walk, we reached our goal. We wanted to have a drink first because we were quite thirsty, but we were so overwhelmed by the scenes we already saw, we started to walk across the different scenes immediately.


Before unveiling what there was to see, I should tell you something about the typical form of art, called carving, used at this festival. A sand sculpture, which is a construction of sand and water, is a form of art that was already known by the ancient Egyptians 4000 years B.C. The sand used for the sculptures on this festival came from a Belgian quarry in Mont-Saint-Guibert, a small village near the Ardennes. About 50 million years ago, the North Sea came as far as this area. Later on, the coastline retreated, by which the sand was no longer subjected to the tides and kept its angular grainy structure. Because of this shape, it is possible to make high, stable constructions: "one can make sculptures with cubes, but not with marbles".


Since this year Belgium exists 175 years, it was no surprise Belgium was the theme of the fourth edition of this festival. The themes in the previous years were Egypt, South America, and Italy.


Sculptors, also called carvers, from all over the world, arrived on June 3rd in Blankenberge to execute the enormous task to represent Belgium. Supplied with heaps of information and pictures, they spent at least 10 hours a day in the huge "sand-pit" (more than 37 million kilos of sand was used).


In the Royal Palace, which was indoors, each Belgian king took you with him through the period he reigned over the country. Outside, all Belgian provinces were represented. The scenes were constructed in pursuance of a story, legend, myth, event or joke. Further on, there were thematic angles of incidence, such as "typical Belgium", "Belgians on the road", "Burgundian Belgium", "Belgium and music", and "Belgium and fashion". The Flemish lion and Walloon cock observed the entire scene.


In the "gallery"-part of this website you find some pictures I took that day. At the website of the Sand Sculpture Festival www.sculpta.be you can find pictures of this and previous years, and more information concerning the festival.


Those who plan a trip to Belgium before August 28th this year or next summer, should reserve some time for this festival. You won't regret it!