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Tunisian artist eL Seed’s newest installation, Perspective, spans multiple buildings in the neighborhood of Zaraeeb, Cairo. His ‘calligraffiti’ style is a combination of his love of street art and his Arab background. He uses this style with his graffiti pieces as well as his sculptures and canvas pieces.
‘Calligraffiti’ is the marriage of traditional Arabic calligraphy and modern graffiti to create massive murals on the streets, and intricate canvases and sculpture in the studio. His work focuses on the words he picks for the installations, in harmony with the illusion of movement that the pieces create. He explains that he writes on walls to convey messages to the audience in a shared space while the work is in progress. After the work is completed the conversation is between the individual and the piece.
el Seed’s largest and most famous street piece is the adornment of the Jara Mosque in Gabes, Tunisia. The purpose of the piece transcends just decoration; el Seed explains that he used words of the Quran that promote respect and tolerance for all humankind. el Seed was born in Paris, the son of Tunisian parents. His Parisian graffiti installed in Tunisia is an example of his combined cultural identities between Europe and North Africa. As eL Seed’s personal worlds collide through his art, he also tends to affect the often-diverse communities where he installs his work. This piece was inspired in part by the social and political unrest happening at the time in Tunisia.
His most recent piece is a mural that spans across 50 buildings in the neighborhood of Zaraeeb, in Cairo, called Perception. It is a play on visual perception, as one can only see the full mural from a specific point on the Mokattam Mountain, about 15 km away from the site. The calligraphy within the lettering are the words of Saint Athanasia, and they read, “إن أراد أحد أن يبصر نور الشمس، فإن عليه أن يمسح عينيه”
With his work, eL Seed challenges the common misconceptions about the neighborhood, breaking down existing social barriers and bringing his unique art to one of the poorest areas of Cairo. eL Seed remarks that although the community has a bad reputation due to the people’s way of life, as they collect Cairo’s trash to recycle it. He highlights the fact that the people of Zaraeeb are the cleaners of Cairo, despite being called Zabaleen which directly translates to “the garbage people.” The people of the community welcomed eL Seed and his team, and as well as offering their hospitality they were eager to help with the project.
In a statement eL Seed remarks, “In my new project ‘Perception’ I am questioning the level of judgment and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a community based on their differences.”
“They don’t live in the garbage but from the garbage; and not their garbage, but the garbage of the whole city. They are the one who clean the city of Cairo.”