Bandundu Water Jazz Band – Tervuren, Belgium


Brussels is remarkable for its whimsical public art exhibits, including the famous Manneken Pis. Less well known is the “Bandundu Water Jazz Band” in the city of Tervuren in Flemish Brabant. The installation is located about fifteen kilometers from Brussels.

Created by Belgian artist Tom Frantzen, this sculptural fountain has been installed in a roundabout and depicts various African aquatic animals playing jazz. The group consists of crocodiles, frogs, a hippo, a pelican, a lizard and a turtle. The fountain is located in front of the Colonial Palace, which serves as an annex building to the Royal Museum for Central Africa.

The fountain features a circular pattern to mimic the discs spinning on a gramophone, including the water lilies the animals stand on. The jazz group was intended to portray the influence of Africa on the different cultures of the world. During winter, the fountain sometimes freezes, decorating the ice sculptures beautifully.

While the fountain itself is a delightful work of art, the wild history behind the installation cannot be ignored. Bandundu is the name of a city in the Congo, a former Belgian colony, which was ruthlessly exploited during the reign of King Leopold II. He created the Royal Museum for Central Africa to promote his independent state of the Congo, even exhibiting a “human zoo”. Ultimately, around ten million people in the Congo Free State were killed by the colonization of Leopold II.

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Henry R. Wright