France: L´Oukaze, a new autonomous space in Bègles


Five people meet in and feel political affinity – and loads of energy. They open a new legal squat in Bègles, a suburb of Bordeaux … and are allowed to stay; even untill next spring as it seems now! A utopian story of the birth of a new autonomous space. Let´s see what the Oukaze has become now, several months after it came to life in february.

The gate to the new squat which is in a massive beautiful old villa with a garden is closed. It is metal black, on the outside you see flyers and little pieces of street art – and inside you will see even more of it. There is a bell and you can shout as well. It´s easy to enter, someone will always open.
The entry to the magic villa is made acessible with a ramp, words of welcome are written on it. And inside you will see dark wooden floors, loads of stencils, pictures, decorations, banners – all put together it makes it feel like a very cosy art gallery, all ready for interaction with the oevre, all ready to be changed and cosy comfy seats inviting the spectator to stay and become part of it.

But this is just downstairs. Upstairs there is room to come and stay and rest and sleep as well. People who have no other home are welcome here. And they can just take one of the rooms and make it their home. “Many migrants were sleeping here in the past. The house was really full with people and it became a bit too much. So a few months ago we tried to regulate the flow of people a little bit to make it a safer space” says one of the squatters as he shows guests around.

L´Oukaze is not only a space where those in lack of a safe home can find shelter and accessible resources to cover their primary needs in life but it is also a space of activities, music, workshops… it is a space where you can find sawing machines in the attic and where people organise demonstrations against gentrification.

Yet, the struggle for autonomous spaces seems easy and comfortable from inside the peaceful L´Oukaze. The washing is drying in the sunny garden and people are sat chatting around a big table under a tree.

The local authorities of the small municipality of Bègles are not used to the phenomenon of squatting. They are confused and surprised – which is a reason why L´ Oukaze is still there and is not facing violent eviction – unlike the squats in the city centre of the town of Calais in France, for example. Here their appearance in the city centre made the local press describe them with all available hostility as a spreading disease.

In Bègles the local authorities sent the squatters an amusing letter with a notice that “their property” is squatted. There is a massive difference between how squats on the outskirts and squats in the centres are treated and whether and how they face eviction and repression.

Published on Sustainable Alternatives:

38 rue du Marechal Lyautey – 33130 Bègles