A Zone To Defend - PhMuseum

A Zone To Defend

Penelope Thomaidi

2018 - Ongoing

France; Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Pays de la Loire, France

“ZAD” in french stands for an activist occupation intended to physically blockade a development project. Called officially in France, the Zone d’aménagement différé (zone for future development), it was renamed by protesters as the Zone à défendre (zone to defend). The ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes in south-west France was the first place to be so named.

In 2008, after a call by local farmers and inhabitants who had since the '60s, strongly opposed an airport project on their lands, activists started gathering in NDDL to squat in the land with the aim to defend it “against the airport and its world”. By the beginnings of 2018, approximately 300 activists have organised their lives around this protest, horizontally and collectively, despite the markets and the state. Deeply interested in this way of life - both new and old -, I wanted to see for myself what this social experiment looked like. The first person who talked to me about the ZAD years ago was a friend who lives in the zone and organises creative disobedience. He has been my guide to this new world.

On January 17th, 2018 the french government officially announced the end of the airport project. But with this decision came another: the french prime minister also announced that the community had until spring to leave.

My journey started on February 10th, 2018 with the celebrations that followed the official announcement of the cancellation of the airport project. At this point, the environmental struggle is finally won, but the future of the community that has been formed around the protest is threatened. My documentation is still ongoing and based on my personal experience, therefore it doesn't claim to represent the ZAD as a whole.

I had a short time to get in touch with some members of the community and get a glimpse of their daily activities before a large-scale eviction operation started on April 9th, 2018, comprising 2500 gendarmes, armoured cars, drones and helicopters.

This far, I found myself inside a laboratory of constant exchange of knowledge and skills, a place of dedication and radical friendships. The ZAD is a living utopia with 2 bakeries, collective farms, a newspaper, a radio station, a library, workshops and artisan projects. What fascinates me the most in this community is that the inhabitants of the ZAD defend their choices with their whole existence.

At this moment evictions have halted and negotiations with the state are ongoing.

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  • A wooden model of an airplane is on fire during the celebrations "Enracinons l' avenir" (Let's Root the Future") in ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes. The celebration took part on the occasion of the official announcement of the cancellation of the airport project by the french government on January 17th, 2018 and the expiry of the Déclaration d’Utilité Publique (Public Utility Declaration) on February 9th, 2018. The protest against the airport project in NDDL lasted almost 50 years, since it was first announced in 1967. ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, February 10th, 2018.

  • An old sign along the road reads “NO A L’ AEROPORT” (No to the Aeroprt). Notre Dame de Landes, France, January, 2018.

  • Vero in her living room in la Hulotte cabin. March 2018.

  • Different types of housing in ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, March 2018.

  • Sarah, inhabitant of the ZAD, in the medicinal garden of Le Moulin collective. March 2018.

  • Inside the Fosses Noires bakery. March 2018.

  • Camille in her new caravan, La Ambazada. March 2018.

  • Inside a caravan. March 2018.

  • Saskia, inhabitant of the ZAD, illustrator and lumberjack, France, March 2018.

  • Crowd gathering at the crossroad of La Saulce. Eviction operations start at 3.20 am on the morning of April 9th, 2018, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France.

  • Teargas falling over the fields of the ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 9th, 2018.

  • Inhabitants defending the 100 Noms collective, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 9th, 2018.

  • Barricades in front of Les Vraies Rouges, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 9th, 2018.

  • Barricades during eviction operations, ZAD de Notre Dame des Landes, France, avril 2018.

  • Clash while defending the 100 Noms collective, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 9th, 2018.

  • An inhabitant confronting the police at 100 Noms farm, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 9th, 2018.

  • Living space in 100 Noms before and after the eviction operations, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, March-April, 2018.

  • An inhabitant on the ruins of her living space at La Chevrerie, April 10th, 2018. When I asked her for a portrait she searched in the ruins to find the T-shirt she is wearing reading ZAD PARTOUT (ZAD everywhere). ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 10th, 2018.

  • Supporters of the ZAD carry the wooden structure of a new cabin meant to be built collectively at the spot of the recently destroyed Gourbi. The cabin would serve as a meeting and assembly point. ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 15th, 2018.

  • Barricade next to Foret de la Rohanne ready for a next possible clash, ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, France, April 24th, 2018.


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