Hope and Peace without Translation

eL Seed is a calligrafiti artist. Originally Tunisian but raised in France, he embellishes concrete with beautiful graffiti art containing Arabic script. If commissioned to spray his art in a non-Arabic speaking country, he stays with Arabic script as his work does not require translation to spread hope and peace. “You don’t need to know the meaning to feel the peace. I think that Arabic script touches your soul before it reaches your eyes. There is a beauty in it that you don’t need to translate” says eL Seed says in his TED talk. He typically uses quotes and poetry in his scripts. And even for Arabic native speakers, it takes some effort to decipher the painted script.

eL Seed’s first work of art was created on the Jara Mosque in Gabes in southern Tunisia, his home town. After receiving permission from the Imam, who did not even ask what he was going to depict on the 187-feet tall Minaret tower, the artist proceeded with decorating the concrete wall. A verse from the Qur’an seemed very fitting:

“All human kind we have created you male and the female and made you people and tribes that you may know each other.” A universal call for peace. This was in 2012, 18 years after the Minaret was built.

Since then, eL Seed has been ‘calligrafitti-ing’ all over the world, notably on the only concrete wall of a Cape Town slum, their school. He used the Nelson Mandela quote “It is impossible until it’s done”, in Arabic script of course.

”I’m really proud of my culture, and I’m trying to be an ambassador of it through my artwork. And I hope that I can break the stereotypes we all know, with the beauty of Arabic script. Today, I don’t write the translation of the message anymore on the wall. I don’t want the poetry of the calligraphy to be broken, as it’s art and you can appreciate it without knowing the meaning, as you can enjoy any music from other countries. Some people see that as a rejection or a closed door, but for me, it’s more an invitation — to my language, to my culture, and to my art.” eL Seed

From eL Seed’s TED talk:  http://www.ted.com/talks/el_seed_street_art_with_a_message_of_hope_and_peace