A Calligraffiti Journey Through Tunisia with eL Seed

A Travelogue Through Familiar Land Leads the Aerosol Writer Along New Routes

eL Seed took a trip to discover his country and his roots and in the process learned about authentic and storied history, local culture, the generosity of strangers, and the strangeness of Darth Vader in the desert.

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“There is no separation between form and language in eL Seed’s work. His images embody language to the extent that the line and the subject become one, and the flow of the line is part of the meaning. The viewer does not have to understand Arabic to sense the poetry of the message,” says Jeffrey Deitch in the preface to Lost Walls, A Calligraffiti Journey Through Tunisia, and the seamless integration of intent, inquiry and inspiration carries throughout this country-wide journey.

Choosing walls, blocks and buildings to leave his visual poetry is not an act of graffiti as much as it is a weaving of this modern moment with historical heritage and public art as he discovers and shares his observations and conversations in this travelogue of towns and communities.

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

“I wake up to the full light of day. The city, it seems, is up well before me. From the window of my room, I can see a wall in shambles. It calls out to me. I leave quickly to find out its history and who owns it,” he writes of El Kef, one of about 20 towns and cities he visits and paints while exploring history and perspectives of neighbors. Spurred on by his near life-changing experience painting a verse from the holy Quran on a minaret in his ancestral home of Gabes, the revelations about how people reacted to his work illuminated his impressions of himself as well as others, eL Seed took on a path of inquisition and the discovery of new places to leave his mark.

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

The book is richly illustrated, heavily essayed, and openly spoken. The physical journey accompanies and internal one; a full spectrum of issues, ideas and quandaries that propel his ride through this small northern African country bordering the Mediterranean. While essayist Wassim Ghozlani examines the role of public art in the democratization of society, Amel Djait contemplates the role of cultural tourism to the future of the country. As a corollary to both threads eL Seed quizzically studies the semi-preserved site of a Star Wars movie filmed here in the desert and finds a sort of Western incursion that trivializes the heritage and struggle of the people, even as “music from the film resonates in my mind”.

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

Seeing these freestanding pieces of calligraffiti in the midst of monochromatic and sun bleached scenes baked in clay and sand is surprising and singular, a clarion call to the past using tools of the present. eL Seed has his unique perspective as he observes and acts, questions and listens, and finally as he blends what he learns into his gestural and stately script. If there is a way forward for the tribes and the traditions of such storied lands, it will be perhaps by a new third party who gains the trust and respect of the old and the new. By trekking carefully along many a cultural fine line containing myriad curves and turns, eL Seed is creating his own path forward in his home land while others are doing the same.

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

 

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eL Seed constructed this wall by hand, before dismantling it in “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

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eL Seed “Los Walls” (photo from the book © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed “Lost Walls” A Calligraffiti Journey Through Tunisia. From Here To Fame Publishing. Berlin, Germany 2014

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