An Artist A Day: eL Seed

Throughout this month, The Modern East has taken the initiative of showcasing some of the most talented Arab artists out there in a series we like to call “An Artist A Day“. From paintings and drawings to illustrations and photography, we are so excited to display these incredible artists, for your enjoyment.

There are so many wonderful artists born and bred within the Arab community; artists that we believe deserve to be highlighted and appreciated. There really is no better feeling than a reflection of your community in the art you consume.

eL Seed

The next artist we’re excited to introduce is eL Seed, a French-Tunisian street artist whose work incorporates graffiti and Arabic calligraphy, a style commonly known as Calligraffiti.

eL Seed uses Arabic calligraphy and a distinctive style to spread messages of peace, unity and to underline the commonalities of human existence. His artwork consistently aims at unifying communities and redressing stereotypes. In his quest to unify the people, eL Seed always makes sure to create appropriate art that aptly summarises the voice of whichever community he is working within, and to underline his key principals of love, respect and tolerance.

His work has been shown in exhibitions and in public places all over the world including most notably on the façade of L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the favelas of Rio di Janeiro, on the DMZ in between North and South Korea, in the slums of Cape Town and in the heart of Cairo’s garbage collectors neighbourhood.

Wherever you are in the world, there’s a chance you’ll be able to spot his work.

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I arrive in Douz to meet Belgacem, a traditional musician who I was introduced to through my cousin. We meet at a cafe, where all eyes are glued to the football game on the television. Belgacem is accompanied by his friend Ryadh, who talks of his uncle Salah Souai Marzougui, a staple in the regional art scene of Douz. A few moments later, Salah is at our table, coffee in hand. Our discussion revolves around our individual projects and the obstacles I might face by not being a member of the elitist Tunis art scene. Salah is fascinating. He exudes creativity and speaks with vitality. He uses lively gestures to play out scene, and illustrates his thoughts by drawing and painting on anything he can find. He says that Bedouin culture is the lung of his creative breath. However, his visceral love for this culture does not tolerate the exotic stereotypes projected upon it. “Tunisia is not just a Club Med postcard,” he tells me before suddenly getting up to leave. As he gives his warm goodbyes, he tells me that he sees himself in me – that he recognizes what I am attempting to do, and that a man who doesn’t leave his mark behind, did not live at all. And then off he goes. #lostwalls #elseed #artisapretext

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Born in 1981 in Paris, eL Seed found himself to be disconnected from his Arabic roots. Going into his teenage years, the desire to go on a quest for his identity grew. He began to delve into his own heritage and learned to read and write standard Arabic. It was during this journey that he began to develop his artistic style of calligraphy, which would later bring him worldwide acclaim.

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Dive #desyeuxdanslesbleus #elseed

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He found that Arabic calligraphy was a way of building a link between his equally important French and Tunisian backgrounds and as he matured, eL Seed began to use that same calligraphy as a tool to build bridges all over the world.

Though eL Seed is widely known as a graffiti artist, his work is not limited to that of spray-painted street art.

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Initiated by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and curated by @sultanthe1st
, the phase 1 of my new artwork on the Riyadh Water Tower has just been completed. My team and I will be back in November to finish. I have chosen the words of one of the greatest Bedouin poets: Abdallah ad-Dindan. He was old, poor, and illiterate, yet he held a magnificent wealth of poetry inside his mind and he is one of the best examples of the treasured tradition of Arabian oral poetry. Ad-Dindan, who was of the Duwāsir tribe in the southern Najd region, chose the Bedouin lifestyle and he chose to place importance on the natural environment, living as a nomad and writing about the desert. His humble way of life embodies the true down-to-earth spirit of a Bedouin. My role as an artist is to change stereotypes, so, by focusing on this poet, I believe I will be highlighting a part of Saudi culture that is less celebrated. The specific poem I have chosen is a 27-verse plea for rain after a period of drought. It appears in an anthology written and edited by Marcel Kurpershoek called Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia and subtitled A Bedouin Bard in Southern Najd.  The book is a complete collection of oral poetry by ad-Dindan and this particular part shows his masterful use of language. Ad-Dindan speaks of the voice of rain and its sweetness as well as the importance of accepting God’s decree. The combination of these words, placed upon the prominent water tower, will highlight the importance of Bedouin values and lifestyle. Ad-Dindan's words would have been lost if it wasn't for Pr. Marcel Kurpershoek. He followed the poet for years, recorded his voice, and transcribed his texts. Today, the words of an illiterate man stand proud and unforgotten on one of the city's most monumental structures. #Dindan #Riyadh #oralpoetry #merciMarcel #backinNovember #MoC 📸 @mehdykhmili

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