el Seed ‘Perception’ Street Art initiative, Egypt 2016

El Seed is a ‘Calligraffiti’ artist, who mixes a blend of the historic art of Arabic calligraphy and art of graffiti. Born to Tunisian parents in the suburbs of Paris, eL Seed pieces have developed out of two cultures combining to form a new identity, a unique mark and a distinctive style, which can be found across the globe.

Currently in Egypt, el Seed’s new street art initiative ‘Perception’ challenges the viewer to see things differently. El Seed finds himself in Manshiyat Naser working with the Zaraeeb community. A community who have served as Cairo’s informal garbage collectors since approximately the 1940s and recycle an impressive 85 percent of the waste that they collect.

The Zaraeeb community use donkey-pulled carts and pick-up trucks to transport the collected garbage from the residents of Cairo for little charge, transport and attempt to retrieve any potentially useful or recyclable items in Mokattam Village. They then sell the recycled and sorted trash, create new materials and feed pigs the food wastage producing an efficient economic system.

Their living situation is poor, especially as they live amongst the trash that they sort, nevertheless, the Zaraeeb community are generous, warm have formed a strong and tight-knit community.

“The Zaraeeb community welcomed my team and I as we were family. It was one of the most amazing human experience I have ever had. They are generous, honest and strong people”. eL Seed

The largest settlement is Mokattam village, nicknamed ‘Garbage City’, and is located at the foot of the Mokattam Mountains, next to Manshiyat Naser. The people who live and work there are known as a derogatory term Zabaleen, ‘The Garbage People”. Perceptions and stereotypes of the Zaraeeb community are that they live in garbage and are dirty, but what they really do is take in the waste of the city of Cairo and efficiently recycle. Saving resources, the environment and producing a cleaner Cairo and the planet!

“In the neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasr in Cairo, the Coptic community of Zaraeeb collects the trash of the city for decades and developed the most efficient and highly profitable recycling system on a global level. Still, the place is perceived as dirty, marginalized and segregated” eL Seed

El Seed ‘Perception’ urban initiative questions the level of judgment and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a misunderstood community, and highlights these flaws. To expose these misconceptions of the Zaraeeb community eL Seed creates an anamorphic mural split over fifty large buildings. Each piece masterfully engineered to precision and once viewed from a certain point of the Moqattam Mountain, then can the whole picture be seen.

Written in the art are the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the 3rd century, due to the majority of the Zaraeeb community being Coptic Christian faith.

‘Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.’
‘إن أراد أحد أن يبصر نور الشمس، فإن عليه أن يمسح عينيه’ Saint Athanasius of Alexandria

In conjunction to this realisation eL Seed gave a talk at Art Dubai to go into more details about ‘Perception’ in a conversation with Glenn D. Lowry, the Director of The Museum of Modern Art, providing a much-needed boost to the people of the Zaraeeb community especially after the last few years when trash companies were introduced and the cull of their pigs, due to the swine flu threat, by the Egyptian government.

Lets hope the future of the Zaraeeb community is as positive as their contribution to our future on this planet.

Photo credit eL Seed instagram



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