Street Art for Hope and Peace | eL Seed | TED Talks


In 2012, when I painted
the minaret of Jara Mosque in my hometown of Gabés,
in the south of Tunisia, I never thought that graffiti would bring
so much attention to a city. At the beginning, I was just looking
for a wall in my hometown, and it happened that the minaret
was built in ’94. And for 18 years, those 57 meters
of concrete stayed grey. When I met the imam for the first time,
and I told him what I wanted to do, he was like, “Thank God you finally came,” and he told me that for years
he was waiting for somebody to do something on it. The most amazing thing about this imam
is that he didn’t ask me anything — neither a sketch,
or what I was going to write. In every work that I create,
I write messages with my style of calligraffiti —
a mix of calligraphy and graffiti. I use quotes or poetry. For the minaret, I thought that
the most relevant message to be put on a mosque
should come from the Quran, so I picked this verse: “Oh humankind, we have created you
from a male and a female, and made you people and tribe,
so you may know each other.” It was a universal call for peace,
tolerance, and acceptance coming from the side that we don’t usually
portray in a good way in the media. I was amazed to see how the local
community reacted to the painting, and how it made them proud to see
the minaret getting so much attention from international press
all around the world. For the imam, it was not
just the painting; it was really deeper than that. He hoped that this minaret would become
a monument for the city, and attract people
to this forgotten place of Tunisia. The universality of the message, the political context
of Tunisia at this time, and the fact that I was writing
Quran in a graffiti way were not insignificant. It reunited the community. Bringing people, future generations, together through Arabic calligraphy is what I do. Writing messages is
the essence of my artwork. What is funny, actually, is that
even Arabic-speaking people really need to focus a lot
to decipher what I’m writing. You don’t need to know
the meaning to feel the piece. 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. Arabic script speaks to anyone, I believe; to you, to you, to you, to anybody, and then when you get the meaning, you feel connected to it. I always make sure to write messages that are relevant to the place
where I’m painting, but messages that have
a universal dimension, so anybody around the world
can connect to it. I was born and raised in France, in Paris, and I started learning how to write
and read Arabic when I was 18. Today I only write messages in Arabic. One of the reasons
this is so important to me, is because of all the reaction that
I’ve experienced all around the world. In Rio de Janeiro, I translated
this Portuguese poem from Gabriela Tôrres Barbosa, who was giving an homage
to the poor people of the favela, and then I painted it on the rooftop. The local community were really
intrigued by what I was doing, but as soon as I gave them
the meaning of the calligraphy, they thanked me, as they felt
connected to the piece. In South Africa, in Cape Town, the local community of Philippi offered me the only
concrete wall of the slum. It was a school, and I wrote on it a quote from Nelson Mandela, saying, “[in Arabic],” which means, “It seems
impossible until it’s done.” Then this guy came to me and said,
“Man, why you don’t write in English?” and I replied to him, “I would consider
your concern legit if you asked me why I didn’t write in Zulu.” In Paris, once, there was this event, and someone gave his wall to be painted. And when he saw I was painting in Arabic, he got so mad — actually, hysterical —
and he asked for the wall to be erased. I was mad and disappointed. But a week later, the organizer
of the event asked me to come back, and he told me that there was a wall
right in front of this guy’s house. So, this guy — (Laughter) like, was forced to see it every day. At the beginning, I was going
to write, “[In Arabic],” which means, “In your face,” but — (Laughter) I decided to be smarter
and I wrote, “[In Arabic],” which means, “Open your heart.” 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. Thank you. (Applause)

48 comments

  • JonZoda

    That's very nice

    Reply
  • cyberpragya

    I love how his calligraphiti (great word) blends into the structure and the surrounding environment. Either through contrast or complement, it looks like it belongs there, and makes it beautiful.

    Reply
  • LiquidOrigami

    I could never read any of those but I would still appreciate how cool they look.

    Reply
  • Alex Boston

    That's nice pats on head

    Reply
  • Kalvis Jānis

    Amazing. You're doing an amazing job, wish there were more people like you 😉

    Reply
  • Harakashi

    No matter how many pearls you put on a pig it's still a pig. If you wan't to deceive use sweet words.

    Reply
  • Sanae A

    Beautiful! !!!! Bravo! !!!!

    Reply
  • Mir Media

    Well Done eL Seed!
    .
    ..
    Cue the haters…..

    Reply
  • sara meachel

    Beautiful

    Reply
  • Li anne

    Wow! It looks absolutely stunning, and carries a great message!

    Reply
  • Loro sono umano

    Needs more arrows

    Reply
  • Rebecca

    beautiful

    Reply
  • 베니 Ben

    Your art is beautiful~! Love the message you're sending out with it! 🙂

    Reply
  • danny markham

    His work is so refreshing and inspiring.

    Reply
  • Ayat Abuagla

    Beautiful!?

    Reply
  • Senk Yoghurt

    You can see and hear how moved this man is by art. It's lovely to watch.

    Reply
  • ᔕTᗩYᑎIᖴTY

    Remember when TED talks were a big thing, and not just a platform for any old bullshit?

    Pepperidge farm remembers

    Reply
  • Dantick09

    Very cool paintings, we need more of that

    Reply
  • Hunter Akridge

    Why are there so many TED talks about Islam?

    Reply
  • graphicq8

    El Seed .. Much respected artist .. I love your works .. I had the honor to meet u in kuwait 🙂

    Reply
  • anna karenina

    he didn't give up his own history, culture and language. What an amazing thing

    Reply
  • Balika Kamble

    awesome. you are just awesome. i really dont know what was the script mean but it looks great. you are soooo good. thank you very much. for sharing your art.

    Reply
  • Ashraful Ayan

    You are awesome brother! Keep going on. You are spreading the message of truth and piece in very contemporary way. Big up!

    Reply
  • Tamather Elmahdi

    Proud to be a Muslim Arab 🙂 <3

    Reply
  • P

    WHAT IS WITH ALL THE TALKS ABOUT MUSLIM TOPICS

    Reply
  • patricesez

    Yes, the "shapes" he paints in the graphical-designs he choses are attractive, but the language he has chosen is the language of the deadliest ideology around the world to date. Because of the "baggage" Arabic-script carrys, I'll never be able to enjoy the work fully unless I know it's literal meaning. (Consider this baggage: this year's "holy" Ramadan death toll: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

    Reply
  • alnsr

    Great speech i like it…. i love arabic caligraphe but i can write it… im arab by the way but caligraphy i belive is type of art

    Reply
  • Joud Toamah

    Beautiful

    Reply
  • TheGerogero

    What's wrong with Zulu?

    Reply
  • chromanin

    Very beautiful.

    Reply
  • inessabille

    Calligrapher of peace
    #el seed

    Reply
  • Just Ruta

    These are pretty great pieces of graffiti and touching too

    Reply
  • Belal Osman

    LOVE THIS! 'You are never too young to learn, never too old to change. Your yearning to learn and change come from a divinely instilled striving for eternal progression. Each day brings opportunity for decisions for eternity.'

    Reply
  • Maurice Leblanc

    Le job est propre, respect à toi

    Reply
  • Ahlam drms

    I wanna hope,, I wanna see peace every were in the world ?

    Reply
  • Yunus - Jonah

    Beautiful

    God has given you a talent my brother

    Keep using it for good

    Reply
  • Onac

    Who got the infinity simulation ad

    Reply
  • Salma Sr

    خط جميل جدا ، بارك الله فيه ، bueatiful

    Reply
  • Inshirah Abdur-Rahman

    Beautiful the "Language" of Color…FREEDOM and Art! Mabrook!

    Reply
  • Mouedh Sassi

    big up men gebes 😀 good job wallah sa7a weld bled

    Reply
  • Sereen Alyahya

    من أعظم العروض التي شاهدتها , شكرًا لك لنشر ثقافة اللغة العربية , لغة الفن والعمق والمعرفة, وإطلاعها للعالم. العالم العربي بك يفخر

    Reply
  • Sereen Alyahya

    this is the greatest show i have been seeing in Ted talks. so proud of you

    Reply
  • Esraa Amin

    عاااش جدا
    من أجمل talks الي شفتها

    Reply
  • haya bader

    prrooouuud!

    Reply
  • Sun Times

    Salam from Peru Alhamdulillah Graffitti in Jannah one day.

    Reply
  • Wafaa Refat

    Thanks Mr.El seed

    Reply
  • Claurunner

    I love the part 5:39

    Reply
  • farah kbenk

    I can't believe it! I always want to see how calligraphy and graffity combined on wall and now this! great work❤?

    Reply

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