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

Published June 11th, 2015 - 06:47 GMT

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.”

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.”

View as a slider
View as a list
Paris bridge love locks graffiti

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.

Paris bridge love locks art graffiti

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!

TED graffiti art Arab eL Seed

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!

eL Seed graffiti Lost Walls Tunisia

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!

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Temoula

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.”

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist El Kef

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Star Wars

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Sharjah

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist New York

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.

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Paris

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!

eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist future plans

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."

Paris bridge love locks graffiti
Paris bridge love locks art graffiti
TED graffiti art Arab eL Seed
eL Seed graffiti Lost Walls Tunisia
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Temoula
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist El Kef
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Star Wars
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Sharjah
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist New York
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Paris
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist future plans
Paris bridge love locks graffiti
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.
Paris bridge love locks art graffiti
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!
TED graffiti art Arab eL Seed
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!
eL Seed graffiti Lost Walls Tunisia
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!
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Temoula
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.”
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Djerba
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist El Kef
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Star Wars
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Sharjah
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist New York
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.
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist Paris
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!
eL Seed graffiti wall Arab artist future plans
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."