Researching the mining town Genk, it was essential to get a historic perspective of the city. At the Emile Van Doren Museum we were welcomed by Kristof Reulens, who provided us with information about urban and rural changes in Genk’s landscape as well as with insights into the role of scientists and artists. We learned that the Plein-Air painter Emile van Doren (*18651949) and his fellow artists appreciated the rural landscape and emerged as advocates for landscape conservation. Genk also proved to be a place for natural scientists eager to discover new plants and insects – the ‘Lentevuur Spin’ (‘Springfire Spider’) being the most famous example. 

Drawing session, inspired by Emile van Doren

With the industrial revolution three mines were installed in Genk in order to provide the town Liège with coal. Soon, the mines became the heart of the town, the center of the citizens lives and the incentive for labor migration – a multicultural place was born.

In order to get an insight into the labor and life of miners, we had a conversation with three men who used to work in the mines of Genk, before they were closed down in the 1980’s. We learned about pine wood and mice functioning as safety indicators, about numerous serious accidents that happened in the mines, but mostly about the indispensable cohesion and fraternity amongst the men from many cultural backgrounds. ‘In the mine everybody was black’, one of the men told us.