City-Scale Art Challenges Cultural Perceptions in Cairo

  • French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed blends the historic art of Arabic calligraphy and the contemporary style of graffiti to create calligraffiti.
  • In the neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasr in Cairo, eL Seed has created what he calls Perception, an installation meant to defy conceptions of the largely Christian Coptic Zaraeeb community.
  • This community, not only a religious minority (Egypt is 90% Muslim), but also a cultural one, collects trash from around the city and has developed an efficient and profitable recycling system.
  • The Zabaleen are commonly perceived as dirty and are often marginalized and belittled by surrounding communities.
  • 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 ones who clean the city of Cairo.
  • Through the project’s play of optical perception, the artwork stresses the idea that changing your point of view can greatly affect what you fully see, such as the people and communities surrounding you.
  • Perception covers over 50 buildings and is only fully visible from a single viewpoint.
  • The piece spells out the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria: 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’.

More of eL Seed’s art.

Author: Nicholas Efthimiadis

Seattle grown. Avid skier and occasional ski racer. Passionate about all things urban (particularly transportation & housing). University of Washington 2016 graduate: BA in Economics and a minor in Urban Design and Planning. Extensive experience in fictitious cartography and sand-city molding.