In an attempt to find his identity as the child of immigrants living in France, French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed took a modern twist on the traditional art of Arabic calligraphy by fusing it with graffiti. He displayed his “Calligraffiti” and discussed it Wednesday evening in White-Gravenor Hall.

The Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Department of Linguistics and NAS Arab Society sponsored the event.

“I needed to know where I was because I was not French,” he said. “It was mainly a quest for identity at the beginning.”

eL Seed had initially experimented in Latin graffiti, but his style changed when he decided to learn classical Arabic. Without proper training in calligraphy, he developed his own style.

The most important aspects of his work are the message and the artistic quality of the letters, eLSeed said. He attempts to put content and the poetry of the language above personal fame.

“I stopped writing the signature because I want the message before the name,” he said.

When he first began, he would write the French and English translation with the Arabic words. He now refuses to translate the words, as to not distract from the poetry of art. The lack of translation is a political protest against the need for all languages to be put in the context of more prominent languages.

Although his Tunisian roots often link him to political activism and rebellion, he rejects this idea that his messages are always political. His messages often involve open discussions between different cultures and religion and other inspirational texts, in order to bring people together. His attempt to show non-political art is part of his effort to portray Tunisia in another light.

eL Seed’s messages and art rely on the location and the wall. He painted the facade of a building in the quickly changing 13th arrondissement of Paris with a quote about how fast the city can evolve. el Seed said he did not mind that his art could be destroyed.

“It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the public, to the people,” he said.

His most recent project involved decorating desolate locations in Tunisia. His goal was not for his art to be widely seen, but rather to be hidden in places that even Tunisians do not know about.

Although his style developed from an internal struggle between his Tunisian and French identities, he said that he has since found a balance between the two.

“There is not one identity,” he said, adding that he can be both French and Tunisian.

eL Seed inspires people to find their identities and be true to themselves.

“I think the worst obstacle is yourself,” he said.

Kiki Shim (SFS ’17) said that as an immigrant, she could relate to eL Seed.

“What stood out to me was the way he says it was a journey of identity,” Shim said. “Because for me, I’m also an immigrant so it relates to me because I kind of don’t know where I am going.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *