I pass in front of the pop-up bike repair atelier almost every Wednesday on my way home, and I’m drawn in by the ambiance that radiates from the people on the sidewalk. ‘Il y a de l’amour sur ce trottoir’, as Papa Douala says. So we thought it was worth while to have a chat with Papa Douala again.
The story begins during a trip in Cameroon, where Eric meets locals who, with self made tools and time, try to fix their few precious possessions (and Eric’s bike) over and over again. Unlike most people over here in Europe,who throw away everything the minute it’s broken.
There’s another trigger to the story of Papa Douala. The need to come out into the streets again, talk to people, meet them. Bring the streets and the sidewalks back to life. St-Gilles is the perfect place, with a good social and generational mix of people in the neighbourhood – and there’s sun on Papa Douala’s sidewalk whenever he works there!
Papa Douala doesn’t want any money, doesn’t use any new pieces – only recuperated second hand but still very usable material. You just come over with your bike and he’ll try to help you to get it rolling again.
There’s not only Eric, there’s also Samuel and Steven and even one Mama Douala, Julia who volunteer to help. And Momo who takes care of the beers and the occasional BBQ. And the friendly neighbours, who often join in and don’t mind their sidewalk being invaded a bit.
Want to see Papa Douala at work and enjoy the ambiance? Jump on your bike and pass by in St-Gilles on a Wednesday afternoon. Papa Douala’s crew will also be repairing bikes on the Car Free Day on 16th September (@ Wiels in Forest & @Place de Moscou in St-Gilles).