Art, dance, music: these are all forms of creative expression that need no translation. When we hear a melody, regardless of the singer’s tongue, we feel the emotion behind their words. When we gaze introspectively at a painting, we can find meaning that transcends our small world of exposure.
We can learn and connect with each other through the universal language of art.
El Seed, a French-Tunisian artist, is an artist with a mission of doing just that. He uses an art form known as Calligraffiti, a mix of Arabic Calligraphy and Graffiti.
Seed has painted buildings in Cairo, Houston, NYC, and more. He is most famously renowned for painting over 50 buildings in “Garbage City”, one of the poorest slums in Egypt. Born and raised in Paris, France, El Seed didn’t learn to read or write Arabic until his was eighteen years old. After that, he began traveling the world with the intent of using his Calligraffiti to spread messages of love and peace designed to bridge cultural divides.
“As an artist, I have a responsibility to bring people together and not to divide people. So that’s why I try to always make sure that what I’m writing has this-- not double meaning-- but make people think, you know, actually about the human condition.”
In his 2015 TED Talk entitled “Street Art for Hope and Peace”, El Seed said: “I’m really proud of my culture, and I’m trying to be an ambassador of it through my artwork, and I hope I can break the stereotype we all know with the beauty of Arabic script.”
He recounts one such moment when he had the opportunity to do so. He was hired to paint a wall of someone’s house for an event in Paris. When the man who offered his wall saw Seed was paining in Arabic, he became so furious, he demanded Seed erase his work. A week later, Seed was contacted by the organizer of the event, who told him there was a building right in front of the man’s house. They had seen the work he had done before it was removed, and asked him to paint the wall, one that, ironically, would be the first thing the angry man would see when he left his home. Seed says he was tempted to write “in your face” in Arabic. Instead, he chose to write a message of peace and love, inscribing the words “open your heart.”
Art has immense power to bridge cultural divide and bring people together. Perhaps by opening our hearts to the art of others, we will discover that we are, perhaps, not as different as we seem.