Arts & Culture

Graffiti At The University Of Houston Catching Some Buzz

It’s the latest project by an international “calligraffiti” artist who some are calling controversial.

eL Seed with mural
French-Tunisian artist eL Seed in front of his 60 X 40 sq. ft. “calligraffiti” on UH’s social work building.
picture of eL Seed's calligraffiti
By Thursday, about a third of the mural was complete. eL Seed chose translated a quote by Sam Houston into Arabic: “Knowledge is the food of genius, and my son, let no opportunity escape you to treasure up knowledge.”

Shielding their eyes from the sun, students passing through the University of Houston campus stop to look up at the four-story social work building. Through the tree branches, hues of tangerine orange and baby blue seem to pop off what was once a brown brick wall. The 60 X 40 square ft. mural is the work of eL Seed, a French-Tunisian artist known for his calligraffiti, a fusion of graffiti and Arabic calligraphy. He chose a quote by Sam Houston and translated it into Arabic text. “I always do some research before I go to a place,” eL Seed says. “This is important to me to make work that is relevant to the place and to the community.”

eL Seed’s calligraffiti has drawn attention around the world, specifically for his enormous paintings on the sides of buildings. Reactions were mixed when he used a mosque as one of his canvases. But his works convey messages of peace and humanity, which caught the eye of the staff at UH’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. He was a natural fit for their “Intersections” initiative, an effort to build bridges between Houston’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

“We’re really thrilled that eL Seed chose to come to Houston because he’s highly in demand everywhere,” says Karen Farber, the center’s Executive Director. “He just did a gigantic project in Cairo, Egypt, on 50 buildings.”

The large-scale work is a component of this year’s Counter Current Festival, a week-long event of experimental art in pop-up locations across the city. It’s set to stay on display for two years, but there’s no word yet if anything will replace it.

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