T+L Reports: Brussels's Little Africa
Published: June 2009
The Brussels neighborhood of Motangé emerged in the early 1960's, when Congolese immigrants settled in the area around Porte de Namur. Slowly, it has become the African heart of the EU capital. Look for the mural above the Hema department store (19 Chaussée d'Ixelles; 32-2/546-0990; www.hema.be), and you'll know you've arrived; the painting of outdoor cafés, barbers, and women swathed in tribal costumes offers a snapshot of local life. • Each side of the Galerie d'Ixelles arcade, at the top of Chaussée de Wavre, is named for a main street in Kinshasa: Inzia is lined with snack shops selling salted fish and grilled meats (sometimes even gazelle), while Kanda Kanda is dominated by Musicanova (2428 Galerie d'Ixelles; 32-2/511-6694), Europe's best spot for African recordings. • Attempt to fit into the crowd with a bold-patterned batik bazin (wrap) from Bethel Boutique (39 Chaussée de Wavre; 32-2/548-0012). • Once the shops shut, live musicians keep the masses grooving between sips of hibiscus juice at the cultural center L'Horloge du Sud (141 Rue du Trône; 32-2/512-1864; www.horlogedusud.be). • Just up from nearby Place St.-Boniface—anchored by the turreted Église St.-Boniface, where you can catch Sunday services in Swahili—L'Ultime Atome (14 Rue St.-Boniface; 32-2/511-1367) serves African beer and Congolese specialties well into the night.