Egyptian artist Bahia Shehab and French-Tunisian artist eL Seed have been awarded the UNESCO-Sharjah prize for Arab culture for their innovative use of Arabic calligraphy in street art.
Shehab, who is the first woman in the region to receive the award, has said that art can be a tool for change that can encourage people to engage for justice. Her work “No, A Thousand Times No” began with the compilation of 1,000 “nos” as they had been depicted on anything ever produced under Islamic and Arab patronage, from art and ceramics to tombstones, in the past 1,400 years from Spain to the borders of China.
During the 2011 Egyptian revolution Shehab sprayed the various “nos” on the walls of downtown Cairo and added her own phrases to them: “No to violence” and “no to sexual harassment”.
eL Seed’s work is part of the calligraffiti style, a mixture of the artistic disciplines calligraphy and graffiti, and is always large-scale. His work has adorned a wall of the Institut du Monde Arab in Paris, a motorway underpass in Qatar and a café in the main square of Guelala, a village on the island of Djerba in Tunisia.
eL Seed’s work is a comment on social issues. In July 2015 he told MEMO: “I always try to make sure that the message I put is talking to the local community first and then make sure the message is universal so anybody around the world can relate to it.”
The UNESCO-Sharjah prize awards personalities or organisations who make a significant contribution towards the development, dissemination and promotion of Arab culture in the world.
Middle East Monitor