The First World War was hard on the inhabitants of the Belgian port city Antwerp – not only on the people, but on the animals as well. The Antwerp zoo in particular faced great difficulties. The number of animals dwindled because of food shortages and (the threat of) bombings, and visitors stayed away. Faced with this crisis, the management made a daring call: they turned the zoo’s banquet hall into a cinema. The success of this venue helped sustain the zoo during the war years, and long after that. It would eventually close in 1936. This peculiar but largely forgotten piece of history was the subject of an extensive exhibition in the Antwerp zoo in 2018 – a part of its 175th anniversary celebrations.
The agency Sien was behind the creative scenography for this exhibition. They build and develop heritage projects and have worked for a rich variety of museums, cultural and touristic sites. Sien asked Manitoba to furnish the audiovisual content. This included making half a dozen videos that helped tell the Zoo’s wartime history. To guarantee historical accuracy, Manitoba cooperated with professor Leen Engelen, who literally wrote the book on this topic.