This Calligraphy Artist Spreads a Message of Peace and Unity

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.

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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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“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.