Calligraphy artist eL Seed treats Arabic calligraphy as a way for him to bridge his French and Tunisian backgrounds. Born in 1981 in Paris to Tunisian parents, he grew up feeling disconnected from his Arabic roots. During his teenage years in a kind of quest to rediscover his identity, he began to delve into his own heritage and learned to read and write standard Arabic. It was during this journey that he developed his artistic style of calligraphy, which would later bring him worldwide acclaim.
“I mix graffiti, which is a ‘western’ medium (although I don’t like to use this term) and Arabic calligraphy, which is an ancient eastern way of expression,” he relayed in an interview with Art Radar. “Bringing both together is a way for me to bring together a picture that seems contradictory, but actually is not. I think that’s the power of calligraphy and art in general. [They] bring two worlds together and link them. That’s why I feel that my work speaks for me.”
“As a kid, I was into hip hop culture,” he recalled. “Graffiti was the natural medium for me to express myself in an artistic way. It became more and more a case of [me finding my] identity and reconnecting with my Arabic roots.”
According to eL Seed, his calligraphy is aimed at spreading a message of peace and unity, with his artwork found all over the world, both in exhibitions and public places. Some of his more striking works were exhibited in places like the façade of L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the favelas of Rio di Janeiro, the DMZ in between North and South Korea, the slums of Cape Town, and the heart of Cairo’s garbage collectors neighborhood.