Bridging the East and West: love locks lost, amazing Arabic art found in Paris

Published June 11th, 2015 - 06:47 GMT

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Last week, tons of romantic “love locks” were removed from the Pont des Arts Bridge in Paris due to security concerns and replaced with eye-catching street art, including a vibrant mural by Tunisian artist eL Seed. It’s an interim exhibition while the bridge awaits new siding - not likely to be dismantled until after summer. Paris will always be the “City of Love,” even stripped of its famous love locks. Now it’s also emerging as the “City of Arabic Calligraffiti.” Continue reading below »

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Love weighs heavy on the heart, and on the Pont des Arts bridge too! That’s why Paris has unlocked a different kind of love and replaced the famous love padlocks with lightweight panels of Arabic calligraphy-inspired graffiti.
Reduce

Image 1 of 13:  1 / 13Love weighs heavy on the heart, and on the Pont des Arts bridge too! That’s why Paris has unlocked a different kind of love and replaced the famous love padlocks with lightweight panels of Arabic calligraphy-inspired graffiti.

Enlarge
It’s all about bridging old with new. This fun fusion plays off the contrast between eL Seed’s modern 'calligraffiti' and classic Parisian architecture. You might not find this kind of art at the Louvre, but it’s on public display for anyone passing by the bridge - and it won’t cost you a Franc!
Reduce

Image 2 of 13:  2 / 13It’s all about bridging old with new. This fun fusion plays off the contrast between eL Seed’s modern "calligraffiti" and classic Parisian architecture. You might not find this kind of art at the Louvre, but it’s on public display for anyone passing by the bridge - and it won’t cost you a Franc!

Enlarge
Beauty transcends language. eL Seed was selected as a 2015 TED Fellow, and in one of his TEDx talks he said that the beauty of his calligraffiti reaches the soul before its meaning. We trust that the non-Arab-speaking bridge traffic will concur!
Reduce

Image 3 of 13:  3 / 13Beauty transcends language. eL Seed was selected as a 2015 TED Fellow, and in one of his TEDx talks he said that the beauty of his calligraffiti reaches the soul before its meaning. We trust that the non-Arab-speaking bridge traffic will concur!

Enlarge
If you’re into treasure hunts, why not embark on a worldwide artistic adventure in search of the 'lost walls' that have been transformed by eL Seed’s Arabic art? If your credit card has been maxed out, his Facebook ‘wall’ is the next best thing!
Reduce

Image 4 of 13:  4 / 13If you’re into treasure hunts, why not embark on a worldwide artistic adventure in search of the "lost walls" that have been transformed by eL Seed’s Arabic art? If your credit card has been maxed out, his Facebook ‘wall’ is the next best thing!

Enlarge
Walls have ears, but eL Seed wants to give them mouths too. Referring to this “neglected” wall - much like the rest of Tunisia, according to him - of his grandparents’ house in Temoula (one of his debut displays), the artist said, “When I paint these ‘lost walls,’ the idea is to make them talk, to show the wealth of this country.”
Reduce

Image 5 of 13:  5 / 13Walls have ears, but eL Seed wants to give them mouths too. Referring to this “neglected” wall - much like the rest of Tunisia, according to him - of his grandparents’ house in Temoula (one of his debut displays), the artist said, “When I paint these ‘lost walls,’ the idea is to make them talk, to show the wealth of this country.”

Enlarge
Still doing the rounds of Tunisia;  eL Seed went to new heights by painting the dome of a cafe in the small town of Guellala on the island of Djerba. While some locals appreciated this new art in their Berber town, others weren’t as welcoming and vandalized the ornate orb.
Reduce

Image 6 of 13:  6 / 13Still doing the rounds of Tunisia; eL Seed went to new heights by painting the dome of a cafe in the small town of Guellala on the island of Djerba. While some locals appreciated this new art in their Berber town, others weren’t as welcoming and vandalized the ornate orb.

Enlarge
Perhaps one of his most breathtaking works yet, this turquoise mural was drawn on a wall in the traditional Tunisian village of Erriadh in Djerba. Part of a project that hosted a hundred artists - including eL Seed - from 30 different nations, the avant-garde artists descended on the tiny island to create an open-air museum of public street art.
Reduce

Image 7 of 13:  7 / 13Perhaps one of his most breathtaking works yet, this turquoise mural was drawn on a wall in the traditional Tunisian village of Erriadh in Djerba. Part of a project that hosted a hundred artists - including eL Seed - from 30 different nations, the avant-garde artists descended on the tiny island to create an open-air museum of public street art.

Enlarge
Art soldiers: Another calIigraffiti on another “lost wall” in Tunisia. This time, eL Seed’s journey took him to El Kef, where the people were so receptive, he said the guys pictured promised to act as sentries, protecting the painting from meddling hands.
Reduce

Image 8 of 13:  8 / 13Art soldiers: Another calIigraffiti on another “lost wall” in Tunisia. This time, eL Seed’s journey took him to El Kef, where the people were so receptive, he said the guys pictured promised to act as sentries, protecting the painting from meddling hands.

Enlarge
This lost wall is uber cool for two reasons: one, it has eL Seed’s signature sketches on it, and second, it’s on a lost wall in the same city, Tatooine, where Star Wars was filmed! Perhaps it will feature as the backdrop of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Reduce

Image 9 of 13:  9 / 13This lost wall is uber cool for two reasons: one, it has eL Seed’s signature sketches on it, and second, it’s on a lost wall in the same city, Tatooine, where Star Wars was filmed! Perhaps it will feature as the backdrop of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Enlarge
Sharjah’s buildings speak art, but they couldn’t go untouched by eL Seed. This elaborate mural on a Sharjah Bank  building proves that he can go UAE large too. The bank was adorned with a 19th-century poem by Iraqi calligrapher and poet Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who lived and worked in Sharjah.
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Image 10 of 13:  10 / 13Sharjah’s buildings speak art, but they couldn’t go untouched by eL Seed. This elaborate mural on a Sharjah Bank building proves that he can go UAE large too. The bank was adorned with a 19th-century poem by Iraqi calligrapher and poet Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who lived and worked in Sharjah.

Enlarge
Another brick in the wall: Taking his spray can across the world, eL Seed gave New Yorkers something to look at by transforming a plain brick wall into a blend of vibrant orange and yellow caligraffiti.
Reduce

Image 11 of 13:  11 / 13Another brick in the wall: Taking his spray can across the world, eL Seed gave New Yorkers something to look at by transforming a plain brick wall into a blend of vibrant orange and yellow caligraffiti.

Enlarge
In 2013, the Tour Paris 13 project had more than 100 international street artists drop into an empty Paris housing block armed with stencils and spray cans to decorate it inside and out. eL Seed painted this exterior wall. After seven months of painting, the site was opened to the public for just one month, then it was demolished. Sacre bleu!
Reduce

Image 12 of 13:  12 / 13In 2013, the Tour Paris 13 project had more than 100 international street artists drop into an empty Paris housing block armed with stencils and spray cans to decorate it inside and out. eL Seed painted this exterior wall. After seven months of painting, the site was opened to the public for just one month, then it was demolished. Sacre bleu!

Enlarge
We predict dance will meet art in eL Seed’s next project. The innovative artist recently said, 'I would love to do something with a ballet dancer. The way they dance, the way they move, I feel like they are throwing letters; their movements are the same shape of my letters.'
Reduce

Image 13 of 13:  13 / 13We predict dance will meet art in eL Seed’s next project. The innovative artist recently said, "I would love to do something with a ballet dancer. The way they dance, the way they move, I feel like they are throwing letters; their movements are the same shape of my letters."

Enlarge

1

Love weighs heavy on the heart, and on the Pont des Arts bridge too! That’s why Paris has unlocked a different kind of love and replaced the famous love padlocks with lightweight panels of Arabic calligraphy-inspired graffiti.

Image 1 of 13Love weighs heavy on the heart, and on the Pont des Arts bridge too! That’s why Paris has unlocked a different kind of love and replaced the famous love padlocks with lightweight panels of Arabic calligraphy-inspired graffiti.

2

It’s all about bridging old with new. This fun fusion plays off the contrast between eL Seed’s modern 'calligraffiti' and classic Parisian architecture. You might not find this kind of art at the Louvre, but it’s on public display for anyone passing by the bridge - and it won’t cost you a Franc!

Image 2 of 13It’s all about bridging old with new. This fun fusion plays off the contrast between eL Seed’s modern "calligraffiti" and classic Parisian architecture. You might not find this kind of art at the Louvre, but it’s on public display for anyone passing by the bridge - and it won’t cost you a Franc!

3

Beauty transcends language. eL Seed was selected as a 2015 TED Fellow, and in one of his TEDx talks he said that the beauty of his calligraffiti reaches the soul before its meaning. We trust that the non-Arab-speaking bridge traffic will concur!

Image 3 of 13Beauty transcends language. eL Seed was selected as a 2015 TED Fellow, and in one of his TEDx talks he said that the beauty of his calligraffiti reaches the soul before its meaning. We trust that the non-Arab-speaking bridge traffic will concur!

4

If you’re into treasure hunts, why not embark on a worldwide artistic adventure in search of the 'lost walls' that have been transformed by eL Seed’s Arabic art? If your credit card has been maxed out, his Facebook ‘wall’ is the next best thing!

Image 4 of 13If you’re into treasure hunts, why not embark on a worldwide artistic adventure in search of the "lost walls" that have been transformed by eL Seed’s Arabic art? If your credit card has been maxed out, his Facebook ‘wall’ is the next best thing!

5

Walls have ears, but eL Seed wants to give them mouths too. Referring to this “neglected” wall - much like the rest of Tunisia, according to him - of his grandparents’ house in Temoula (one of his debut displays), the artist said, “When I paint these ‘lost walls,’ the idea is to make them talk, to show the wealth of this country.”

Image 5 of 13Walls have ears, but eL Seed wants to give them mouths too. Referring to this “neglected” wall - much like the rest of Tunisia, according to him - of his grandparents’ house in Temoula (one of his debut displays), the artist said, “When I paint these ‘lost walls,’ the idea is to make them talk, to show the wealth of this country.”

6

Still doing the rounds of Tunisia;  eL Seed went to new heights by painting the dome of a cafe in the small town of Guellala on the island of Djerba. While some locals appreciated this new art in their Berber town, others weren’t as welcoming and vandalized the ornate orb.

Image 6 of 13Still doing the rounds of Tunisia; eL Seed went to new heights by painting the dome of a cafe in the small town of Guellala on the island of Djerba. While some locals appreciated this new art in their Berber town, others weren’t as welcoming and vandalized the ornate orb.

7

Perhaps one of his most breathtaking works yet, this turquoise mural was drawn on a wall in the traditional Tunisian village of Erriadh in Djerba. Part of a project that hosted a hundred artists - including eL Seed - from 30 different nations, the avant-garde artists descended on the tiny island to create an open-air museum of public street art.

Image 7 of 13Perhaps one of his most breathtaking works yet, this turquoise mural was drawn on a wall in the traditional Tunisian village of Erriadh in Djerba. Part of a project that hosted a hundred artists - including eL Seed - from 30 different nations, the avant-garde artists descended on the tiny island to create an open-air museum of public street art.

8

Art soldiers: Another calIigraffiti on another “lost wall” in Tunisia. This time, eL Seed’s journey took him to El Kef, where the people were so receptive, he said the guys pictured promised to act as sentries, protecting the painting from meddling hands.

Image 8 of 13Art soldiers: Another calIigraffiti on another “lost wall” in Tunisia. This time, eL Seed’s journey took him to El Kef, where the people were so receptive, he said the guys pictured promised to act as sentries, protecting the painting from meddling hands.

9

This lost wall is uber cool for two reasons: one, it has eL Seed’s signature sketches on it, and second, it’s on a lost wall in the same city, Tatooine, where Star Wars was filmed! Perhaps it will feature as the backdrop of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Image 9 of 13This lost wall is uber cool for two reasons: one, it has eL Seed’s signature sketches on it, and second, it’s on a lost wall in the same city, Tatooine, where Star Wars was filmed! Perhaps it will feature as the backdrop of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

10

Sharjah’s buildings speak art, but they couldn’t go untouched by eL Seed. This elaborate mural on a Sharjah Bank  building proves that he can go UAE large too. The bank was adorned with a 19th-century poem by Iraqi calligrapher and poet Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who lived and worked in Sharjah.

Image 10 of 13Sharjah’s buildings speak art, but they couldn’t go untouched by eL Seed. This elaborate mural on a Sharjah Bank building proves that he can go UAE large too. The bank was adorned with a 19th-century poem by Iraqi calligrapher and poet Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who lived and worked in Sharjah.

11

Another brick in the wall: Taking his spray can across the world, eL Seed gave New Yorkers something to look at by transforming a plain brick wall into a blend of vibrant orange and yellow caligraffiti.

Image 11 of 13Another brick in the wall: Taking his spray can across the world, eL Seed gave New Yorkers something to look at by transforming a plain brick wall into a blend of vibrant orange and yellow caligraffiti.

12

In 2013, the Tour Paris 13 project had more than 100 international street artists drop into an empty Paris housing block armed with stencils and spray cans to decorate it inside and out. eL Seed painted this exterior wall. After seven months of painting, the site was opened to the public for just one month, then it was demolished. Sacre bleu!

Image 12 of 13In 2013, the Tour Paris 13 project had more than 100 international street artists drop into an empty Paris housing block armed with stencils and spray cans to decorate it inside and out. eL Seed painted this exterior wall. After seven months of painting, the site was opened to the public for just one month, then it was demolished. Sacre bleu!

13

We predict dance will meet art in eL Seed’s next project. The innovative artist recently said, 'I would love to do something with a ballet dancer. The way they dance, the way they move, I feel like they are throwing letters; their movements are the same shape of my letters.'

Image 13 of 13We predict dance will meet art in eL Seed’s next project. The innovative artist recently said, "I would love to do something with a ballet dancer. The way they dance, the way they move, I feel like they are throwing letters; their movements are the same shape of my letters."

Reduce

A recent fad had lovers tagging padlocks with their names, then clipping the locks to the bridge’s mesh grating and tossing the keys into the Seine. (Tourists on open-top boat tours were hit by flying keys and at least one lock-laden panel fell into the river!). Off came the gratings, and the city invited four popular street artists to decorate temporary sidings, including eL Seed.

Paris-based eL Seed is known worldwide for mixing Arabic calligraphy with urban spray paint techniques. He calls his stunning work “calligraffiti”; it already tags buildings in Paris and further abroad in Tunisia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. This temporary exhibit gives a boost to his artform and message as he works to promote wider Arab culture, breaking down common stereotypes and misconceptions. Where better to broadcast than from France?

Arabic script is surfing a hipster wave. Spot it in highbrow galleries and on lowbrow tee-shirts. Its structure is gorgeous: delicate loops, dramatic swirls, and juicy dots that look ready to burst. It grew as a way to transmit the messages of the Quran, the book that played a major role in developing and popularizing the Arabic language. New styles of Arabic script put across a very contemporary image of the Arab world and Arab identity.

“Calligraphy is a venerated form of Islamic art,” said eL Seed, “Middle East youth say calligraphy’s an old-school art form for old people. Through graffiti, I feel I’m carrying cultural traditions into modern reality while keeping my heritage alive.” He added, “I hope one day I will write a book on all those human experiences I have lived through my art.”

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