|Born||August 21, 1981
Le Chesnay, France
|Known for||Public art, spray cans|
|Notable work||Salwa Road, Jara mosque|
eL Seed (born 1981) is a French-Tunisian street artist whose works incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, a style he calls 'calligraffiti.' His art was born on the streets of Paris, and now adorns walls across every continent. Incorporating elements of both the graffiti and Arabic calligraphic traditions, eL Seed is known for his unique style of calligraphy, which uses intricate composition to call not only on the words and their meaning, but also on their movement, to lure the viewer into a different state of mind. He cites the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and the Iraqi artist Sundus Abdul-Hadi as inspirational figures for their work and their courage in speaking truth to power.
Born to a Tunisian family in France in 1981, eL Seed grew up speaking only the Tunisian dialect, and did not learn to read or write standard Arabic until his teens, when discovered a renewed interest in his Tunisian roots.
eL Seed cites the 2011 revolution in Tunisia as a major factor in the opening of political space to alternate forms of expression. "The revolution pushed people to be more creative because before they were scared -- and now they have more freedom." He created his first large-scale mural one year after the beginning of the Tunisian revolution, in the city of Kairouan. This mural was a calligraphic representation of passage from a Tunisian poem by Abu al-Qasim al-Husayfi dedicated to those struggling against tyranny and injustice.
His most controversial project was the 2012 painting of a minaret of the Jara Mosque in the southern Tunisian city of Gabes. About the project, el Seed explained, “my goal was to bring people together, which is why I chose these words from the Quran. I like graffiti because it brings art to everyone. I like the fact of democratizing art. I hope it will inspire other people to do crazy projects and not to be scared".
eL Seed's art has been shown in exhibitions in Paris, Berlin, São Paulo, Chicaco, and Dubai, and he has also painted murals on the walls of various cities including Melbourne, London, and Toronto, in addition to various Tunisian cities. He has also held workshops and demonstrations at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar and at Harvard University.
eL Seed is currently based in Montreal.
Calligraffiti on Jara Mosque, Gabes, Tunisia
Reacting to the clashes between religious sects and the art community in Tunisia, the artist embarked on a project to transform this religious landmark into a public artwork during the holy month of Ramadan. Specialising in ‘Calligraffiti’—an art form that combines graffiti with Arabic calligraphy—eL Seed’s large-scale production cites traditional principles of Arabic script with the modern sensibilities of graffiti counter-culture.
Recent tensions in Tunisia have sparked a critical debate about the limits of artistic freedoms in the birthplace of the Arab Spring as it undergoes a nascent transition to democracy. “This project is not about decorating a mosque, it is about making art a visible actor in the process of cultural and political change,” comments el Seed, who started work on the mural on July 20. “I truly believe that art can bring about fruitful debate, especially within the uncertain political climate right now in Tunisia.”
The project was approved by the Governor of Gabès and the mosque’s Imam, Shaikh Slah Nacef. The 57-meter-high mural will permanently cover the entire concrete tower face of Jara Mosque in hopes of highlighting the convergence of art and religion and raising the public’s awareness by infusing art directly into the urban landscape. Exhibiting the words, "Oh humankind, we have created you from a male and a female and made people and tribes so you may know each other," eL Seed quotes a verse of from the Holy Qur'an which addresses the importance of mutual respect and tolerance through knowledge as an obligation.
“I hope that this artistic wall on the minaret will help to revive the city, and especially tourism in Gabes,” comments Shaikh Slah Nacef.
Salwa Road, Doha, Qatar
In early 2013, eL Seed was commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority to create a series of 52 'calligrafitti' works in Doha's Salwa Road area.
- Oct. 2012 The Walls, solo exhibition - Itinerrance Gallery, Paris
- Aug. 2012 Arabic Graffiti, Collective exhibition - Pergamon Museum, Berlin
- May 2012 Essencia, Collective exhibition - São Paulo
- Dec. 2011 Arabesque, solo exhibition - Chicago Public Library, Chicago
- Sept. 2011 Hurouf Al Nour - Tashkeel, Dubai
- Aug. 2011 Fresh Paint Collective exhibition - Fresh Paint Gallery, Montreal
- May 2011 Arabic Graffiti Collective Exhibition - Common Ground Gallery, Berlin
- Sept. 2010 Real Colors Show, Collective Exhibition, Al Khobar (KSA)
- July 2010 Zero Stigmata Show, Collective Exhibition, Naples
- May 2010 Fakie Deck Show, Collective Exhibition - Shelter, Dubai
- Jan. 2013 Salwa Road, mural paintings - Doha
- Oct. 2012 Writing the city, mural paintings - Melbourne
- Aug. 2012 The Walls, mural painting - London
- Aug. 2012 Calligraffiti on the Minaret, mural painting - Gabes
- Apr. 2012 Taking back the purple, mural painting - Paris
- Dec. 2011 ‘A cultural Revolution’, mural painting - Kairouan
- Sept. 2011 ‘This is just a phrase in Arabic , mural painting - Los Angeles
- Dec. 2010 Islamic Arts Festival, live performance, Sharjah
- Dec. 2010 Calligraffiti workshops - Museum of Islamic Art - Doha
- Aug. 2010 MuslimFest, mural creation, Toronto
- Aug. 2010 Dhahran Festival, mural painting, Dhahran
- Arabic Graffiti “Arabic Graffiti” curated and authored by Lebanese typographer Pascal Zoghbi and graffiti writer and publisher Stone aka Don Karl, released 15 April 2011
- Madinati - Calligraffiti on Jara Mosque, Gabes - eL Seed, DafoxinDabox and Kafi Films Video
- Salwa Road Project- Doha
- El Seed | This is Just a Phrase in Arabic | Los Angeles, A Justin Mashouf Video.
- eL Seed the art of Calligraffiti, Poptech