Baras - France


The irony of squatting in an abandoned employment office in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet is not lost on a group of West Africans called the Baras collective (le collectif Baras). Members ended up in the French capital after fleeing Libya during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi. In the wake of the outbreak of civil war they fled across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, eventually making their way to France. The name Baras is derived from the word Baara, meaning ‘work’ in Bambara, a language widely spoken in Mali: it represents the work they did as economic migrants in Libya, before becoming refugees in Europe.


In France they struggle to shed their status as sans-papiers. Without papers they are unable to work or receive state assistance. In September 2015, the owners of the former Pôle Emploi (employment office) were granted an eviction order against the 100-strong Baras collective, who had called the squat home for just over a year. Ever since, the collective has been in limbo; waiting, and doing what they can to stay active, promote their cause and avoid being made homeless once again.

NICK KOZAK

Yacouba Camara at a Baras demonstration in front of the town hall of Bagnolet. 

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Tairu Di Sam, member of the Baras Collective and a native of Mali, on a tram on his way to a friendly football match between Mali and Ghana at Charléty Stadium in Paris, France. March 31, 2015.
NICK KOZAK

Tairu Di Sam on a tram to the Ghana vs. Mali match. 

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NICK KOZAK
Bamba Kone prepares Janzanbour to share.
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NICK KOZAK

Michel Sidibe uses a beam for chin-ups.

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NICK KOZAK

Malian tea on a hot plate.

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Samake Drissa and Oumar Mariko play dame.
NICK KOZAK

Drissa Samake and Oumar Mariko play dame.

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NICK KOZAK
Tairu Di Sam prays.
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Baras Collective member Bakayoko, a native of Mali, stands at the gates of the former parking lot of the employment center, which is now home to him and the collective. Bagnolet, France. March 30, 2015.
NICK KOZAK

Lamine Bakayoko smokes by the gate to the parking lot. 

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NICK KOZAK

An online exchange with a friend back home in Mali.

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NICK KOZAK
Drissa Samake and Lamine Bakayoko prepare a meal for a benefit event.
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NICK KOZAK

Bamba Kone in the suburb of Montreuil; nicknamed the "second Malian town after Bamako".

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NICK KOZAK
Amadou Traore and Sekou Diallo outside the squat at night following a benefit event.
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NICK KOZAK
Les Mercuriales twin towers of Bagnolet on third morning of an eviction notice.
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Clothes hang in the outdoor sheltered area of the squat where laundry is often done. Bagnolet, France. September 23, 2015.

NICK KOZAK

Clothesline at the squat. 

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NICK KOZAK
Tairu Di Sam strikes a pose outside the squat.
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NICK KOZAK
Carrying donated bread back to the squat.
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The following is an image taken during a short visit to Paris in January 2017, more than two years after the Baras collective first started squatting in the former employment office in Bagnolet. 


Amadou Traore in the outdoor parking lot area of the squat on morning more than two years since Baras first occupied the building. Photo: Nick Kozak.

Amadou Traore in the parking lot of the squat one morning.

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The Baras collective were evicted from their home of three years, the former employment office in Bagnolet. 


As of November 2017 most of the Baras are living in a squat in the neighbouring suburb of Les Lilas where they have occupied a building which was once a commercial scale laundromat where they are fighting to have the power turned on. Others have moved to other smaller squats. 


The following images were taken in November 2017. 

Lamine Bakayoko, who recently secured documentation that allows him to reside legally in France, is pictured in front of the sealed gates of Baras collective's former squat. Above him are poster images of Bamba Kone.


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Tairu Di Sam stands in the kitchen of a squat in Les Lilas where he now lives with a few other members of the Baras collective. This house is located very close to the building that the Baras were evicted from this past summer.

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Amadou Traore uses his phone to illuminate a floor plan in a building in Les Lilas where many Baras members are now squatting, without electricity.

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Baras member Sanogo illuminated by the light of a gas lamp, sits in a common area of the squat currently home to many of the collective's men. 

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