Most of us have an immediate aversion to graffiti.  Although it lends color and energy to the environment, graffiti punctuates the dystopian landscape with hopelessness–tags to mark turf and power of rival gangs, or vandalism by the hands of pathless youth.  The ability to communicate, write, and leave something behind is a Divine gift, and graffiti feels like the dark face to this uplifting ability.

However, few things could be farther from the reality with the work of my friend eL Seed.  Rather than “tagging” his work beautifies; he uses the standard tool kit of the street graffiti artist, with all his cans of spray paint and paint-smeared clothes, but he is also (and foremost) a serious student of classical calligraphy.  He finds dilapidated and lonely walls, misused alleys, or blank spots asking for energy, and his magical “calligraffiti” beautifies rather than degrades–giving colorful messages of hope rather than identifiers of dystopia.  His work has been commissioned at Harvard, the Sharjah Biennial, and elsewhere around the world, and the video above is of one of his most beautiful works to date, the adornment of Jara Mosque in Gabes, Tunisia.

eL Seed’s site

Translation of the words?  My favorite verse from the Qur’an:

O Men!  Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.

Qur’an 49:13

Jara Mosque, Gabes, TunisiaImage from Wikimedia Commons

Jara Mosque, Gabes, Tunisia
Image from Wikimedia Commons