eL Seed

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eL Seed

August 21, 1981 (1981-08-21) (age 35)

[citation needed]
Le Chesnay, Île-de-France, France
Known for Public art, spray cans
Notable work Salwa Road, Jara mosque
Website elseed-art.com

eL Seed (born 1981[1]) is a French-Tunisian street artist whose works incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, a style he calls calligraffiti.[2]

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.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Born to a Tunisian family in France in 1981,[1] 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.[4]

He cites the 2011 Tunisian Revolution 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."[4] 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.[4]

His most controversial project was the 2012 painting of a minaret of the Jara Mosque in the southern Tunisian city of Gabes.[3] 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".[4]

eL Seed's art has been shown in exhibitions in Berlin, Chicago, Dubai, Paris, and São Paulo, and he has also painted murals on the walls of various cities including Melbourne, London, and Toronto, in addition to various Tunisian cities.[1] He has also held workshops and demonstrations at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and at Harvard University.[2]

Calligraffiti on Jara Mosque, Gabes, Tunisia[edit]

Jara Mosque in Gabes, Tunisia, 2012

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-metre-high (187-foot) 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 quoted a verse from the Quran 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," commented Shaikh Slah Nacef.

Salwa Road, Doha, Qatar[edit]

Salwa Road, Doha, Qatar, 2013

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.[1]

Manshiyat Nasr, Cairo[edit]

In March 2016, el Seed finished his work Perception in the neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasr in Cairo, where the Coptic community of the so-called Zabbaleen – garbage people – live, they clean the city of Cairo.[5] The artwork is extended over 50 buildings and was created in total secrecy from the Egyptian government. It can only be seen in its whole from a certain view of point of the Muqattam Mountain nearby.[6] The mural, a circle of orange, white and blue in Arabic, quotes the Coptic bishop Athanasius. It says: "Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first." With this project he wanted to question the level of judgment and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a community based on their differences.


  • May 2010 – Fakie Deck Show, collective exhibition – Shelter, Dubai
  • July 2010 – Zero Stigmata Show, collective exhibition, Naples, Italy
  • September 2010 – Real Colors Show, collective exhibition, Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia
  • May 2011 – Arabic Graffiti, collective exhibition – Common Ground Gallery, Berlin
  • August 2011 – Fresh Paint, collective exhibition – Fresh Paint Gallery, Montreal
  • September 2011 – Hurouf Al NourTashkeel, Dubai
  • December 2011 – Arabesque, solo exhibition – Chicago Public Library, Chicago
  • May 2012 – Essencia, collective exhibition – São Paulo
  • August 2012 – Arabic Graffiti, collective exhibition – Pergamon Museum, Berlin
  • October 2012 – The Walls, solo exhibition – Itinerrance Gallery, Paris
  • October 2013 – solo exhibition – Medina, Tunis
  • November 2014 – Declaration, solo exhibition – Tashkeel Gallery, Dubai


My Name Is Palestine, Montreal, 2010
  • August 2010 – Dhahran Festival, mural painting – Dhahran
  • August 2010 – MuslimFest, mural creation – Toronto
  • December 2010 – Calligraffiti workshops – Museum of Islamic ArtDoha
  • December 2010 – Islamic Arts Festival, live performance – Sharjah
  • September 2011 – This Is Just a Phrase in Arabic, mural painting – Los Angeles
  • December 2011 – A Cultural Revolution, mural painting – Kairouan
  • April 2012 – Taking Back the Purple, mural painting – Paris
  • August 2012 – Calligraffiti on the Minaret, mural painting – Gabes
  • August 2012 – The Walls, mural painting – London
  • October 2012 – Writing the city, mural paintings – Melbourne
  • January 2013 – Salwa Road, mural paintings – Doha
  • November 2014 – Algiers, mural paintings – Algeria
  • February 2015 – Banks Street, mural paintings – Sharjah

Personal life[edit]

eL Seed is based in Montreal.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e [dead link] eL Seed Biography. elseedindoha.com.
  2. ^ a b Ro, Jihyun Ro (April 2, 2012). "eL Seed Demonstrates Arabic Graffiti". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  3. ^ a b "El Seed on Graffiti, Censorship in Tunisia, And Why Arabic Is an Artist's Best Friend (Slideshow). The Huffington Post. September 27, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "eL Seed Grafitti Minaret". CNN. September 19, 2012.
  5. ^ Fahim, Kareem (March 28, 2016). "Sprawling Mural Pays Homage to Cairo's Garbage Collectors". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 
  6. ^ "InEnArt  » Calligraffiti". www.inenart.eu. Retrieved April 15, 2016. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Arabic Graffiti curated and authored by Lebanese typographer Pascal Zoghbi and graffiti writer and publisher Stone aka Don Karl, released April 15, 2011.

External links[edit]