For the past year, world famous French-Tunisian graffiti artist eL Seed and his team have been conceiving and producing what is surely one of the most mindboggling pieces of public art that exists in Cairo. The faces of around 50 different buildings in the Zaraeeb community of Manshiyat Nasser now form a stunning work of calligraphy written in black, white, turquoise, and ochre.
The piece, which can only be seen in full from a specific point on Jabal Al-Moqattam, is taken from the words of the 3rd century patriarch of Alexandria, St. Athanasius: "Anyone who wants to look at the sunlight clearly must wipe his eyes first."
The 50-building drawing by French-Tunisian calligraffiti artist honours spirit of perseverance in Manshiyat Nasser. 15 March 2016 (Photo: Hannah Porter)
El Seed, who is famous for larger-than-life calligraphic murals from Jeddah to Paris, wrote on his Facebook page on Monday that his experience collaborating with the Zaraeeb community was “one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had.”
Zaraeeb in the working class community Manshiyat Nasser, or “trash city” as it is called by visitors to Cairo, attracts tourists who gawk at the endless piles of refuse and the people who make their living recycling and reusing what the rest of us discard without a second thought. More than a city of garbage, Zaraeeb is one of Cairo’s vibrant Coptic communities and an integral part of the capital’s sustainability.
Manshiyat Nasser, 15 March 2016 (Photo: Hannah Porter)
El Seed added in his Facebook statement upon leaving Cairo Monday that “the Zaraeeb community welcomed my team and I as if we were family. It was one of the most amazing human experiences I have ever had. They are generous, honest and strong people. They have been given the name of Zabaleen (the garbage people), but 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.”
The massive calligraphic work adds to the view from Jabal Al-Moqattam, 15 March 2016 (Photo: Hannah Porter)