Ommelopan (‘to Ommel’)

oil on canvas (linen)
100 × 130 cm
December 2015

An early childhood memory and an euphoric moment; the pilgrimage from Vlierden to the nearby village of Ommel is about to start, with drums beating and flags flying. My father shouts ‘Saint Triphon’, the name of the march to be played, and my uncle Frans, a virtuoso drummer, starts his roll. Our legendary Studebaker from 1936 plays a shining supporting role.


  • Saint Triphon by Arthur Ney (signature piece of my father’s brass band)

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Ommelopan (Ommel-op-an) is a local way of saying ‘on the way to, going in the direction of, Ommel’. 

It’s a sunny Sunday morning in May 1952, the month of the Marian devotions. The sun is still low and casts long shadows over the brick street pavement. Turning in the wind on the tower the cock spreads its golden sheen. The ‘fanfare’ (brass band) leads the way in the annual pilgrimage to Ommel, a massive enterprise of the village community of Vlierden. The local Willibrordusgilde ‘Guild of Willibrord’ – originally a medieval militia company – shouldn’t be missing here, led by their prominent standard-bearer on horseback.

The heart of such a procession is the priest with the monstrance under the canopy, preceded by young girls dressed as brides, devoutly scattering colourful petals from their braided baskets. This colourful tradition faded over the years due to increased traffic along the route and changing views on social and spiritual values; the colourful petals would ultimately disappear in the floor drain. 

Finally, an anecdote:

According to one of my father’s tall stories, the old Studebaker steadily followed the procession; after all, the hefty six-cylinder engine didn’t just cut out. Mind you − we, mother and three children, were alone in the car in the passenger seats; dad purportedly only occasionally came down to adjust the car while standing on the running board.

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