The young shoots stretch their green leaves under the scorching sun of this cool morning.
Ophélie Damblé is there to pamper them in the narrow greenhouse that she has planted in the heart of the fertile city of Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis).
With her nose in the ground, the self-taught farmer lets herself be lulled by the song of blackbirds that never stop announcing spring.
A serene symphony which replaced the thunderous whirlwind of its former puberty.
It has been almost six years since the former digital communications assistant at TBWA let go of PowerPoint and e-branding to get their hands dirty.
A sacred land that the one that became guerrilla green wants to preserve and revive.
Using vegetable bombs, tomato plants, calendula flowers and potato plants, Ophélie Damblé is waging a war of common sense against concrete.
"We must add nature where there is none"
At the foot of buildings, on the edges of the ring road, in the cracks in the city walls, under the cobblestones, flowers.
Ophélie revives the urban space without asking for its rest.
And invite whoever wants to do the same.
An act of "plant resistance" that the dashing thirty-something claims in playful videos on her Instagram account.
“OphélieTaMèreNature” already has more than 15,000 subscribers.
The ex-communicator does not deny her tools.
In 2019, she published with illustrator Cookie Kalkair the comic strip “Guerilla Green”, before releasing her “Urban vegetation manifesto” in September 2020. Books of solutions, all in humor and self-mockery, to understand the urgency climate, the right to access to nature for all and the need to preserve biodiversity in cities.
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“We no longer have time to wonder if it is good to plant parsley at the bottom of the towers, we must add nature where there is none.
It's not just to look pretty, but for nature to balance itself out and us with it, ”hammers the one who dreams of“ debetonizing ”school and prison yards.
That morning, Ophelia put on combat gear.
Hoodie, jeans and black boots.
The work of the land does not prevent coquetry and style in the dapper with green eyes and painted nails.
Graduated with a bachelor's degree in cinema and theater, trained in comedy, spent by radio chronicle and Konbini videos, she puts on the scene without fuss for a good cause.
Daughter of a “Télérama family”, Ophélie grew up in a village in rural Ariège, which she dreamed of leaving in order to leave “as far as possible” from her teaching parents and gain the independence of a city life.
Ophélie the volunteer, the curious, the thirsty for culture, short exhibitions and concerts and finally touch the Paris of which she dreamed after her baccalaureate.
Guitarist and singer, she started "girls' groups" from the age of 16.
Garage punk “in panties” with a “girl power” trend.
"Feminist without really knowing it at the time", Ophélie is already a performance activist.
All he needed was the field of action.
"I didn't want to leave this Earth without knowing how to grow tomatoes"
The one who has never waited for someone to take her by the hand to get started decides one day to turn her life around to put both feet in the same hoof.
Faced with the ecological crisis, it stamps its feet with the “absurdity” of meetings “where we take our head on a color” of a communication medium.
Money brewed for marketing campaigns.
The dissonance becomes brutal, Ophélie feels guilty about her comfortable life which is being built on the infertile soils of a planet at the end of its life.
Food will be his gateway.
Every week, Ophélie runs workshops for visitors to the fertile city, but also for schoolchildren from Pantin, companies and refugees.
LP / Philippe Lavieille
“I was brought up to eat well, but where I grew up, the peasants were not valued.
I wondered where the products came from, and then I became a vegetarian seven years ago.
Finally, I told myself that I didn't want to leave this Earth without knowing how to grow tomatoes, ”she says, stroking the beet leaves that bloom in her permaculture greenhouse with her fingertips.
Still at TBWA, "very supported by her colleagues", Ophélie puts money aside before leaving to train in the countryside in 2015. She learns on the organic farms of Sologne, Drôme and her native Ariège.
But very quickly realizes that he misses the city.
So she goes back there, to transform her.
The young farmer pushes the door of a few urban agriculture start-ups and does not find her account.
Their economic model and their philosophy which establishes "business models for living things" do not stick: "Nature, we do not control it as we want".
Above all, agriculture on the roofs of the city should not be "an alibi for urbanization".
"When you change your life, you don't have the same needs anymore"
Ophélie needs to start her own project.
She cut her teeth with the Guerilla Gardening France association, "between friends", always, and began to build her community of wild vegetation enthusiasts with her videos.
Before setting up its nursery in July 2020 at the Cité fertile de Pantin, an associative third place dedicated to the sustainable city which extends over one hectare of SNCF wasteland.
She grows there edible plants and aromatic plants from peasant seeds that she sells for less than 3 euros.
Every week, she runs workshops for visitors to the fertile city, but also for schoolchildren from Pantin, businesses and refugees.
What is "green guerrilla"?
The first forms of "green guerrilla" or "green guerrilla" date back to the 17th century in England. A group of rebel farmers, the Diggers, opposed to the lords and the army, cultivated private land to feed neighboring villages. But it was in 1973 that the movement of wild vegetation really took shape in New York. Led by Liz Christy, it was then a question of re-greening the abandoned lands of Manhattan by throwing “seed bombs” and offering poor inhabitants something to eat. The guerrilla green takes up the codes of urban culture to reclaim spaces in the name of ecology. It has since spread all over the world. Until Paris.
For two months, she has been collaborating with the Abajad association, which works to integrate refugees around market gardening. “It is Ophélie's pedagogy that I liked, she is very open and curious, she is used to very different audiences and immediately wanted to do well. She, who is self-taught, has also learned a lot from them who already have some experience ”, presents the president of Abajad, Dounia Hannach. Soon, Ophélie will also lead workshops with women victims of violence in partnership with the region.
To complete her “minimum wage equivalent”, the nurseryman continues to work freelance on the communication of projects that appeal to her. “When you change your life, you don't have the same needs anymore. I do a lot of recycling and I live in a large roommate in Barbès, it's a formula that I like! », She assures. Ophélie knows she won't save the world, but she finds “children's joys” in trying it.