The 61cm tall bronze boy attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals annually. In one legend, it is said that a young boy urinated on an enemy bomb, thus saving the city. That was then this is now – not everyone is a friend to Manneken.
A Brussels lobby group Les Mores Publiques (LMP) has forced Brussels council into an historic vote that might change the statue dramatically. LMP states in its communiqué that “it is a vulgar statue that does nothing good for the image of our city in the 21st century”. Spokeswoman Marie de Canter said: “How can we expect our citizens – especially our children – to obey the law and not urinate in public when the very image of the city encourages us to do so?”
LMP’s plans include a “careful restructuring of the statue so that the fountain’s water comes forth from the mouth rather than its member”. It goes on to say that the cost would be no more than a few thousand euros and that it would be prepared to finance the work required at the renowned La Fonderie d’Ailleurs in Uccle. The statue would be fully clothed at all times.
Locals reacted with a mix of derision and anger. Jacques Saten, who owns a shop selling Manneken Pis replicas said: “This is political correctness gone too far. It’s a bit of fun and what are we (commercants) suppose to do with all these statues? Maybe they’ll be collector’s items.” His neighbour David van Straten was more defiant: “You can tell Madame de Canter that if her (expletive) plan goes through we will take the statues out into the Grand Place cut off all their members – what would that say for the city’s image?”
Brussels mayor Yvan Mayeur was slightly embarrassed that the council meeting was leaked and released a statement saying: “All possibilities are being looked at, but I for one find our statue unique and inspiring – an icon for a city that has always done things rather differently to our neighbours. It would be just another fish fountain. Manneken will not be made a eunuch under my watch.”
Asked about the fate of Jeanneke Pis, the little sister to Manneken on Impasse de la Fidélité, de Canter said: “She reveals nothing: now she would be a fine representation of how we have fun!”
To read LMP’s full plan click here.