Voisinages

What is Neighbourhood?

It’s a place, it’s people; it’s a place with people; it’s a place with people that live in this place. It’s the place where you live with the people that live there too. That’s the places you cross every day on your way to work, and the way back. It’s the place you go through to enter your home. You stay here a month, a year or longer time. And you share it with people – people you may know or not: you use the same entrance door, you see the same view through your window, you put your trash in the same containers. Sometimes you use as well the same courtyard – to grow your plants, to breath some fresh air, to play with your kids. Neighbourhood is a public place, a place to meet in, a place of collective use, a place to share and care for.

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It’s also a feeling. Neighbourhood happen when you start feeling intimate, when you feel that you’re part of it, that you belong to. It’s when you stop looking at the map to know where you are, to know where to go. When you quit your finger on the map and eyes on the streets names. When you stop looking at the bus stops and just know when to hop by. When to stop looking at the places to look at the people. When you’re not only passing by but enjoying your pass. When you’re starting to explore without the fear of getting lost.

When people recognize you in the streets, in coffees, in restaurants. When they know what you want before you order it. Neighbourhood happen when it not only becomes familiar to you but you become familiar to it.

In France, we have a so-called Neighbours’ Day. Created in the late 90’s – it’s celebrated every year just before the summer springs so neighbours can have a reason to meet and say hi, and why not eat all together. It’s organized by the people themselves so they can have this feeling that they actually belong to the same neighbourhood. It’s even spreading to the workspaces.

Because sometimes, your relationship with your neighbour is limited for asking once some help or borrowing some sugar. More usually you don’t even know the guy next door and you won’t knock at the door to introduce yourself with a nice piece of cake. Which is yet the first step to create a neighbour relationship. We simply don’t do it. Quite often, there is no relationship in the same building, even the same floor.

Because we still have the fear to talk to a stranger even he or she lives next door. And maybe the most vivid fear in France is that we are afraid to disturb someone – we don’t want to bother people even if they don’t mind to be. But Neighbourhood is the perfect place to cope with the fear, to overcome it. It’s the opportunity to reappropriate oneself the public space in the most safely way.

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Neighbourhood isn’t just a place, its people; it’s people, their place – but most of all the place where there is no fear whatsoever to have.

Pictures from Miriam Chair and Erika Hudcovicova – Nomadic Arts Festival 2016

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