Mural Monday: eL Seed’s Incredible Mural in ‘Garbage City’

Mural Monday: eL Seed’s Incredible Mural in ‘Garbage City’

muralmonday

Happy Mural Monday!

We are starting a new blog series here at Art Force titled Mural Monday where, you guessed it, we highlight a different mural from around the world to start the week. Why? Besides the awesome alliteration of the title, murals are all about affecting perception. They pack a punch in the form of an idea of feeling, and generally seek to beautify an area and give it purpose. The so often ridiculed least-favorite day of the week by unpopular demand, Mondays could also use a face lift. Now it can be a day of higher perspective, of distance and contemplation, and of affecting perspective to focus on beauty and opportunity.

Without further ado, we head to Egypt and this week’s feature, eL Seed’s latest project.

After three weeks of painting and a year of planning, eL Seed unveiled his most ambitious mural to date. Located in Manshiyat Nasser, a community within Cairo, eL Seed’s mural spans more than fifty buildings to create a colorful, composite circular image. With a team of 40 people, eL Seed was able to execute this complex project, which is only visible from a particular point on Mokattam Mountain.

el seedImage Source: eL Seed.

Perception

Titled Perception, the mural “questions the level of judgement and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a community based on their differences,” states eL Seed. The neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasser, which houses the Coptic community known as the Zabaleen, has collected the garbage of the city for decades, and as a result, has developed a remarkably efficient and resourceful recycling system.

The Zabaleen’s method has organically and informally grown, where individual workers travel from door-to-door to collect the garbage of Cairo. The collected trash is then sorted to find any items to be salvaged – such as materials to be sold to wholesalers and scraps to feed to pigs. Nine thousand tons of garbage are reportedly collected by the workers every day. Despite an advanced waste management system, the neighborhood still has a negative reputation: locals colloquially refer to the neighborhood as ‘Garbage City’ and view it as “dirty, marginalized, and segregated,” according to the artist.

el seed 3Image Source: eL Seed.

eL Seed further described his experience on social media last week shortly after completing the project:

“The Zaraeeb community welcomed my team and I as we were family. It was one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had. They are generous, honest and strong people. They have been given the name of Zabaleen (the garbage people), but this is not how they call themselves. They don’t live in the garbage but from the garbage; and not their garbage, but the garbage of the whole city. They are the one who clean the city of Cairo.”

In line with eL Seed’s other work, the mural is composed primarily of phrases written in Arabic text. Incorporating words by Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Christian theologian and fourth century Egyptian leader, Perception states “anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.”

el seed 5Image Source: eL Seed.

Through this project, eL Seed highlights the widespread prejudices that exist throughout humanity, specifically in terms of the Zabaleen, with essentially every element of the mural. The quote by Athanasius indicates that truth originates from one’s judgement, and in order to see the correct composition of the mural, one must have the proper physical placement and outlook. To understand the mural Perception, one must literally have an accurate perception.

el seed 2Image Source: eL Seed.

Calligraffiti

As a calligraffiti artist, eL Seed’s work combines the styles of classic Arabic calligraphy with modern day graffiti. A genre increasing in popularity, calligraffiti can be found in many major Middle Eastern cities. Much like the collision of culture within his artwork, eL Seed grew up in the suburbs of Paris within a Tunisian family, leading to a blend – and sometimes conflict – of language, culture, and identity. As a result, eL Seed’s work often addresses themes of contrast and opposition.

eL Seed specifically chooses to create murals that will have an impact on the community in which they inhabit. He often incorporates historical texts, passages from scripture, or common expressions to connect with the community on a deeper, more cultural level. However, even if one cannot read the Arabic text, eL Seed finds that his style of work has the ability to relate to anyone. At the 2016 Art Dubai Global Art Forum last week, eL Seed described that “calligraphy is that it touches your soul before your eyes,” he said. “Anywhere you go in the world, people will feel a reaction to Arabic calligraphy.”

 

el seed 4Image Source: eL Seed.

Public Art & Evidence-Based Design

Due to eL Seed’s mural, which has been receiving international recognition, residents of Cairo have a reminder of the Zabaleen’s significant impact on the city, which in turn, will hopefully change perceived notions of the community and aid in the overall well-being of the city. Many public art projects have the fundamental goal of beautifying a city not only for the sake of aesthetics, but for the betterment of the people who live in the community.

Perception brightens a neighborhood that is otherwise seen as dirty while also instilling a sense of pride in the people of the community. As discussed in our previous blog post, The Healing Power of Art, Evidence-Based Design (EBD) demonstrates the positive effects that art and inspiring design can have on those around it. While EBD has typically been associated with healthcare institutions, the same basic principles apply to the neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasser. eL Seed created Perception to enhance the community, change outside judgements, and positively influence people on a deeper level. Beauty begets beauty, so here’s to doing something beautiful this week!

 

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