EL Seed: art for people

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Basharat Bashir

El Seed is a French-Tunisian calligrapher known for his large-scale public art projects. As a contemporary artist, his practice intersects the discipline of painting and sculpture. Most of his projects convey messages of peace and harmony between communities around the world. He uses phrases from writers, poets and philosophers as well as religious texts in his own style in any public space to address the commonalities of human existence. He has worked in many cities around the world and his work has been published in various art galleries and museums.

El Seeds’ work aims to bring about positive change in a community. Its messages of peace, harmony and tolerance are influential in leading young people towards a positive future. Unlike many public artists, el Seed before initiating work in a community spends a lot of time interacting with people, understanding their point of view and listening to their stories. He wants his work to reflect the core values ​​of the community and through his art, he amplifies their voices. He finds his works as a way to create a connection between people around the world.

El Seed has worked on various public art projects around the world. Her Perception project in Cairo, Egypt is an example of how art can be used to eliminate social discrimination and bring people together. Created in the Coptic community of Zaraeeb, el Seed through ‘Perception’ questions the level of judgment and misconception about a community that is different. The community of Zaraeeb has been collecting the city’s waste for decades and has developed the most efficient and cost-effective recycling system in the world. Yet the place is perceived as dirty, marginalized and isolated. To shine a light on this community, with his team and the help of the local community, eL Seed created an anamorphic piece that covers nearly 50 buildings only visible from a certain point on Muqattam Mountain. The artwork uses the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a 3rd-century Coptic bishop, who said, “Whoever wants to see the light of the sun must first wipe his eye.”

El Seed, while commenting on the project, had said, “The community of Zaraeeb welcomed my team and me as if we were family. It was one of the most incredible human experiences I have ever had. They are generous, honest and strong people. They were given the name of Zabaleen (the garbage collectors), but that is not what they are called. They do not live in garbage but garbage; and it is not their garbage, but the garbage of the whole city. They are the ones who clean the city of Cairo.

The work of El Seeds is based on harmony, peace, love, respect and tolerance. His 2012 project in Tunisia was based on the growing differences between religious sects and the artistic community. His work on the Jara mosque in Gabès created in the month of Ramadan was the first of its kind. With the proper approval of the Governor of Gabes and the imam of the mosque, Shaikh Slah Nacef, the 57 meter high mural was executed.

The aim of the project was to highlight the convergence of art and religion and raise awareness by infusing art directly into the urban landscape. Expounding the words “Oh mankind, we created you from male and female and created peoples and tribes for you to know each other”, eL Seed quoted a verse from the Quran which deals with the importance of mutual respect and tolerance through knowledge. as an obligation.

Recent events in Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, have sparked a critical debate on the limits of artistic freedoms. actor in the process of cultural and political change. Especially in Tunisia’s current tumultuous political environment, “I firmly believe that art can foster fruitful debate.

Mirrors of Babel is another project based on unity in diversity. The work in an installation in Toronto that offers an inversion of the biblical story explaining why people around the world speak different languages. According to the story, a united humanity in the generations after the Great Flood, speaking one language and migrating eastward, agreed to build a city and a tower tall enough to reach the sky. God, observing their city and their tower, confuses their speech to the point that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them in the world.

On his website, el Seed, while describing the project, wrote that “the very act of reconstructing the Tower of Babel from language (or letters) is a symbolic gesture, underscoring a key element of my practice. : that the Arabic language can unite us through its aesthetic beauty. It is also a tribute to Toronto’s pluralistic community. The city itself has one of the most diverse populations in the world and rather than being divided through their native languages, its inhabitants are united by the common language. The work, made of mirrors that reflect the images of those who see it, is a visual testimony of this unity, which inspired me to investigate the origin myth .

El Seed’s work has been featured in exhibitions and public places around the world, including on the façade of the Arab World Institute in Paris, in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, on the DMZ between South Korea North and South Korea. , in the slums of Cape Town and in the heart of Cairo’s garbage district.

In 2021, eL Seed was selected by the World Economic Forums as one of the Young Global Leaders for his vision and influence in driving positive change in the world. In 2019, he won “The international award for public art” for his “perception” project in Cairo. In 2017, he won the Unesco Sharjah Prize for Arab culture. He was named Global Thinker in 2016 by Foreign Policy for his project “Perception”. In 2015, the international organization TED recognized him as one of the TED Fellows of the Year, for advocating peaceful expression and social progress through his work. He has also collaborated with Louis Vuitton on their famous “Foulard d’artistes”.

Indian ink wash

A style of India ink brush painting known as “ink wash painting” uses varying concentrations of black ink, similar to those used in Asian calligraphy. It first appeared in the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–907) and replaced earlier, more realistic methods. The emphasis is on virtuoso brushwork and the communication of the perceived “spirit” or “essence” of a subject rather than direct imitation. It is usually monochromatic, using only shades of black. Ink wash painting flourished from the Song dynasty in China (960-1279), as well as in Japan after it was introduced by Zen Buddhist monks in the 14th century.

One of the “four arts” that the Chinese scholar-official class had to learn was brush painting, which was a form of Chinese painting. Ink wash painting or brush painting was divided into two schools, the northern Beizonghua or Beihua school, which is lighter and larger, and the southern Nanzonghua or Nanhua school, which is freer and more expressive. , also known as “literary painting”.

According to the majority of East Asian writings on aesthetics, ink and wash paintings aim to capture the spirit of a subject rather than simply replicate their appearance. To paint a horse, the ink wash painter must be more familiar with the animal’s temperament than with its muscles and bones. It’s important to convey the life and fragrance of a flower when painting, even if the petals and colors don’t match exactly. It has been compared to later movements of Western Impressionism.


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