‘Did you know René Magritte got married in Saint-Josse?’ Artist and illustrator Malyqa reveals us the secrets about the smallest quartier of the city

Artist and illustrator Malika Tarhach, better known as Malyqa, has always been living in Saint-Josse: 27 years already. When she is not drawing, she might be giving a workshop, visiting exhibitions or discovering new places! We asked her about her favourite places in the smallest neighborhood and how her illustration for Madouce came about.

If we had one afternoon in your quartier, which three places should we really go to?

Oh, you should go to the Jazz Station in Chaussée de Louvain. They curate great concerts and exhibitions. The place is so cool, it is situated in an old train station. I feel like people don’t know it enough. I would also recommend the Théâtre le Public and Botanique of course.

For the best croissants and couques au chocolat you should go to Rue Verbist 34, they are the best I had already. For cheese I usually go to cheese shop ‘A la petite Vache’. It’s one of the oldest cheese shops, the owners are so nice.

Fashionistas can also find second hand shops in Saint-Josse, mainly at Chaussée de Louvain and Rue Verbist.

What’s unique in your quartier?

Hmm… I would rather think of a fun story about my quartier that I would like to share. One of my favourite Belgian artists, René Magritte, met his wife Georgette in Charleroi. A few years later they ran into each other by coïncidence in Parc Botanique in Saint-Josse. And ever since never left each other. A little bit later they had their civil wedding in the maison communale of Saint-Josse. I really love how one of my favourite artists had an important passage in my neighborhood.

Do you have a certain quartier habit?

I like to walk around in the Square Ambiorix area. It’s not part of Saint-Josse anymore but I call it my neighborhood since it’s literally 2 minutes from where I live.

What do you love about Saint-Josse?

It is such a little multicultural quartier where you can find loads of different types of food. It’s also very convenient on a daily basis, there is good public transport and everything is closeby.

What would make your quartier even better?

It would be fun to have a cultural centre. Giving more access to art and culture was also a project of the municipality. I hope that one day, we will have one.

Is there a Brussels project, you are a big fan of and would like to give a shout out?

Shirts in Brussels of course (laughs). I’m also a big fan of the designs of Julie Menuge, a fashion designer who works in an ethical and sustainable way. She is passionate about traditional patterns and their history. I like her universe and I’m currently even working on a project with her. Stay tuned!

Behind the illustration

Malyqa, what was your reaction when Kwinten from Shirts in Brussels asked you to illustrate your quartier Saint-Josse?

It was exciting, but also challenging. I wanted to stay close to my own style which is very abstract, where forms and colours harmoniously fit together. For Shirts in Brussels, I had to make sure people could recognise certain elements of the Quartier Illustré. This was a new equilibrium I had to find. The way I worked also changed a bit, I usually draw by hand. Now I started with drawing and then continued in Illustrator. It felt a bit like drawing in two languages, it taught me a lot of new stuff!

What was your creative process for this drawing?

Every day I worked one hour on the drawing, next to my other illustration work. This illustration needed a slow creative process. I enjoyed coming back to it every day and seeing it grow.

I also perceive the illustration process as a puzzle: you start with one piece and then the other elements come along. I first chose the colors blue and orange. The orange filled shape in the middle is the mother of the drawing who guides the other elements to find their equilibrium around it.

Then I started drawing elements of Saint-Josse. It’s a small neighborhood and most people know it from passing through it. The first building I picked was the Botanique. It’s such a great cultural space. I saw how symmetrical the building was and that’s why I decided to only show half of it, which you can see in the left corner.

After that, I added the map of Saint-Josse from a birds-eye view. I also added the Astro Tower, since everybody knows it. This building was more difficult and took me more time to draw in this way. My work is minimal and I don’t like too many details. I like it as simple as possible. Then I added little clin d’oeils; in the left corner for example you can see the labyrinth, this represents the Botanique seen from the sky.

We love the result! What do you think of the illustration yourself?

I’m happy how the entire puzzle came together. It’s not a drawing that is obvious to read and understand, but besides the Saint Josse-residents I also want it to be worn outside the quartier. People should get to know Saint-Josse, I have been living here my whole life and there are really fun places to discover.

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