Oasis de Lentiourel describes itself as a place of peace (‘un lieu de paix’) that takes care of the earth (‘la terre’), the world and itself. This eco-project, set up by mainly artists, wishes to be a place where people can explore innovative ways of autonomy, exchange, helping each other (‘entraide’), and be in harmony with its surroundings.
Thanks to different contacts with other Oasis’, a course that two of the current residents took, on ‘How to create an ecoproject?’ (Given by the founders of Hameau de Buis, Sophie and Laurent), and looking into funding, resulted in 2010 in the purchase of the farm Lentiourel.
This beautiful old farm in the Aveyron dates from the 11th century!. The farm has 35 hectares of land, a water source, forest, and a small stream.
The residents of this oasis all live in the huge old farm building with many rooms and they share the kitchen, laundry facilities, office and common rooms, as well as tools for construction, gardening etc. The interior of the farm house is full of wood, tiles and parquet flooring. So old, you could hear the cracking of the boards on the floor!
Each person pays a fix sum (a loan) to the legal structure of the Oasis de Lentiourel (the SC, similar to Hameau de Buis) and rents a room in the house (price according to the size). When people leave they retrieve this loan. Meals are taken together and a schedule of weekly tasks divided among the members is present in the dining room.
The Oasis wishes to use its enormous variety of artistic talents and share it with others at Lentiourel through a variety of activities and workshops. They also invite people from outside the Oasis to give courses and workshops. Although the 11 residents have different professional backgrounds (e.g. architect, psychotherapist, editor, farmer, instrument-builder) they have artistic and musical backgrounds in common. For instance, Phileo is a musician and technician and builds and collects instruments, Pier-Emmanuel is a sculptor, Marie-Eve is a storyteller, and the founder of Oasis de Lentiourel, Jacques is renowned in the world of microtonal music. This was completely new to me as well. Jacques explained. He talks of ‘audible light’, (the name of one of his CD’s is ‘Lumières audibles’). This refers to a type of instrument that is neither acoustic nor electronic. In a ‘photosonic’ process light shines through a series of semi-transparent, rotating discs that slow and modify the light waves’ frequencies. The resulting waveforms are picked up by photoelectric (solar-power) cells connected to standard analog amplifiers. He furthermore invented over 150 different instruments, so called ‘aquaphones’.
The workshops organised at Lentiourel can be in many different areas, such as permaculture, the arts, personal development, ecoconstruction, etc. One of their future proejcts is to use the old barn for a variety of artistic activities. Currently, the sculptor Pier-Emmanuel and the gardener and DJ, Julien are using this space.
As is often the case with these ‘collective’ projects in the start-up stages, people come and people go, as things grow. Also human relations develop organically. The Oasis now gives newcomers the chance to stay a trial period, in order to find out whether the person and the group of residents feel comfortable with each other. The development of such a ‘collective’ project with several people involves time and concerns different aspects on human, ecological and economical level. Listening to each other and understanding group dynamics is important for the success of these projects (also see article on Hameau de Buis). Oasis de Lentiourel developed an ethical charter in which the framework for the Oasis is stipulated. But of course, then comes the real work of putting it into practice and built daily life together. It was interesting to see how people have different expectations concerning the levels of organisation and the extent of structure and rules. With the many artistic souls in this project, the sense of freedom and with that the capacity to create, seems vital to most of them.
A lot of the work in and around the farm is done by the residents themselves. This means renovating parts of the building, taking care of roads and drainage systems, preparing the terrain for tents (hosting people that stay for courses and workshops), building dry toilets and shower facilities (on solar power), set up permaculture, etc. Through a so called ‘chantier participatif’, the Oasis also welcomes external people to help with the different works. Extra hands and knowledge are always welcome! Quite some time is spent on discussing together how to go about; not everybody is necessarily expert in a certain domain. So it may take longer to agree on the right solution.
There is currently one farmer/gardener, Julien, cultivating part of the land for vegetables. He started this activity not so long ago and is selling his products at a local market in the village.
Love for a very special cow
The Oasis ‘inherited’ one cow from the previous owners, which is now 24 years old. The group celebrated her ‘retirement’ from giving milk for so many years to so many people; a very nice gesture of respect for animals that produce our food!