As previously announced, eL Seed launched his first book, Lost Walls: A Calligraffiti Journey Through Tunisia, together with the American art dealer and founder of Deitch Projects, Jeffrey Deitch, during Art Dubai. The conversation they had revealed a few unexpected facts and background stories on the rising Tunisian artist.
1. He has a degree in business.
Can you imagine eL Seed in suit and tie, juggling with numbers and dealing with businesses? He has never followed the traditional path of an artist, one that requires attending a respected art school and doing exhibitions in galleries and museums. “You don’t need permission to be an artist, you just go off into the street and do it,” eL Seed stated. “My CV is still on LinkedIn, and I just recently received a job offer,” he added, jokingly.
2. He only planned one destination for his 1-month trip through Tunisia: his grandfather’s home.
The rest of his journey was spontaneous. “My desire to embark on this journey began last year after I finished the minaret of Jara Mosque in Gabes. I thought it would be a great opportunity to rediscover my heritage,” he wrote in his book. One of his discoveries was quite intentional, as eL Seed was seeking to go back to his roots to Gabes, and more precisely to Temoula, where most of his family still lives. “Of my paternal grandfather, I have only a few memories of summers when we visited the El Sekiffa palm grove,” he wrote. “Temoula, along with the rest of Tunisia, is the land of my ancestors.”
3. His calligraffiti is/was not always well received, at least not at first sight.
In one of the many villages eL Seed visited during his trip, the house owner came up to him in order to complain while he was painting on one of his walls. “He was kind of threatening and told me that I am only going to finish painting his wall over his dead body,” he remembered. “But I kindly asked him if I could finish it and picture it first, and told him that I would remove it straight after. When I was finished and about to take the painting off the wall, he was like, ‘Please leave it—it’s actually nice. Can you do some more?’”
4. He never signs his art because he believes his art is for people, not for fame.
“What I like about painting on walls is that the walls belong to the people,” he said. “There is something utterly pretentious about putting your signature underneath your artwork if this artwork is made on a public place. It’s like you’re appropriating the wall for yourself, but it’s wrong, because the streets are about democracy,” he explained. “Painting is just an excuse to meet people. The curves I paint in the streets are an invitation to engage passersby in an exchange of ideas.”
5. He is in Dubai…until December 2014!
eL Seed’s Dubai-based fans will be pleased to hear that he’s here to stay for some time. During his book launch, the artist revealed that he is also currently working on an art project in Dubai. More on this as the story breaks.