In Brussels, nothing beats a nice hat!

Written by Leon Gabriel

In the past week, the traditional election of Madame Chapeau took place in Brussels.

Madame Chapeau is one of the activities that brings the folkloric culture of the city to life, and Ket magazine was on hand to discover this colourful event.

When we talk about folklore, we certainly don’t think of inclusion and the fluidity of gender, so often the repetition of old traditions can seem far from the evolutions of current society… and yet.

A play that has become Brussels folklore

The election of Madame Chapeau is a little different from what folklore usually offers us, because it celebrates a typical Brussels character – Amélie Van Beneden, alias Madame Chapeau. Straight out of the imagination of Joris d’Hanswyck and Paul Van Stalle, she was one of the characters in the hit theatre play “Bosseman and Coppenolle”.

Since its creation in 1938, the role of Madame Chapeau has been played by a man dressing in drag. Her nickname comes from the line: ” My name is not Madame Chapeau, it’s the scoundrels of my strotje (alley in Brussels) who called me that because I’m too distinguished to go out in my hair!”

A key part of the folklore and heritage of Brussels, Madame Chapeau has a statue of her effigy which is visible at Rue du Midi at number 111.

Colourful candidates

Fabrice Thiry is a candidate this year and explains his commitment “I have already been a candidate for several years, I love taking part in this election to bring Brussels folklore to life. You know, I am gay and I feel welcome as I am in the folklore of Brussels, I think that does not pose any problems and I feel here in my place”.

This election was a great success, proof of a living folklore open to today’s world.