BRUSSELS - On the occasion of International Women's Day on 8 March, three generations of women spend three days together. Twentysomething Cosima Bas and her mother Anna Luyten dig into the life wisdom of the oldest. This is Chantal De Smet (76), a striking figure of the second feminist wave in Belgium. VRT journalist Hilde De Windt photographs and films.

Hours of intimate conversation unfold at Chantal De Smet's kitchen table. Journalist Hilde De Windt silently circles them, to photograph and film. This results in an inspiring visual and audio story. Conclusion after three days: Chantal De Smet's course was not ordinary, even impressive, but above all it is her eternal resilience with a good lick of humour that still keeps her 'high'. A woman's life' shows how a wise seventy-year-old can continue to inspire the younger generations.

Who is Chantal De Smet?

History unfolds in the life of Chantal De Smet. She grew up with communist militants in Ostend in the 1950s, and that wasn't always easy. I was a child of the devil,' she says. Studying at Ghent University as a young girl was not easy either. Moreover, the family did not have much money. These obstacles make that the lifelong engagement of Chantal De Smet covers a broad social spectrum: economic emancipation, peace movement, gender equality, but also the arts and education.

When Anna and Cosima come to Chantal De Smet, she has just moved. A new knee, a new place in Ghent, a new perspective. In her hall, photos of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara hang next to pictures of friends, loves and her daughter, whom she adopted and brought up on her own. Chantal is surrounded by her cardboard archive boxes, her artworks, her books and her will to always look forward to something.

Art historian and historian Chantal De Smet has been fighting for a lifetime against the silencing of the female voice in society, politics, the art world and policy.

Fifty years ago, she helped to lay the foundation for the first Women's Day in Belgium. She was 26 at the time and Simone de Beauvoir was the guest of honour. The year before, she founded the feminist Dolle Mina's in Ghent and became chairwoman of the committee for the release of the black American anti-racist and feminist activist Angela Davis.

Later, she is involved in the drafting of a new cultural policy, and sits on art and culture committees. From 1989 to 1996, Chantal De Smet was the first and so far only female dean of the Ghent Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) and president of the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA).

She is one of the most discreet and influential personalities in the women's rights struggle and the cultural world in our country. She has left her mark in a gentle but firm manner.


Team members

HIlde De Windt

Hilde De Windt is a Belgian journalist and photographer.

Anna Luyten

Anna Luyten is a Belgian journalist working in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Cosima Bas

Cosima Bas is an anthropologist and writer.

€ 5.200 allocated on 25/08/2020.

ONLINE (in Dutch)

Een vrouwenleven, Klara.be, 07/03/2022.

need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.