The area is best known for its former coalmining industry. The living conditions of the miners were featured in the famous documentary film Misère au Borinage (1933) made by Henri Storck and Joris Ivens.
In his mid-twenties, the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh spent several years living there, ca. 1878-1880. First he preached to and lived with the coal miners. Then he had a breakdown and decided to become an artist, while living there. His first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters (Oil on Canvas, 1885), of Dutch land peasants, was indirectly inspired by the bad conditions for miners and families in the Borinage, but was not painted there.
Borinage is often considered the western end of the sillon industriel, the former industrial backbone of Wallonia, home to about two-thirds of Wallonia's population. The listed mine complex of Grand Hornu is a witness of the region's history. Since the last mines closed in the 1960s the Borinage has had the highest unemployment ratio of Belgium.
Birthplace of Jacques Stoquart, a comic writer. Among others he wrote for "Jan Kordaat", "Stany Derval", "Steven Severijn" ...