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  • In 2012, when I painted the minaret of Jara Mosque

  • in my hometown of Gabés, in the south of Tunisia,

  • I never thought that graffiti would bring so much attention to a city.

  • At the beginning, I was just looking for a wall in my hometown,

  • and it happened that the minaret was built in '94.

  • And for 18 years, those 57 meters of concrete stayed grey.

  • When I met the imam for the first time, and I told him what I wanted to do,

  • he was like, "Thank God you finally came,"

  • and he told me that for years he was waiting for somebody

  • to do something on it.

  • The most amazing thing about this imam is that he didn't ask me anything --

  • neither a sketch, or what I was going to write.

  • In every work that I create, I write messages

  • with my style of calligraffiti -- a mix of calligraphy and graffiti.

  • I use quotes or poetry.

  • For the minaret, I thought that the most relevant message

  • to be put on a mosque should come from the Quran,

  • so I picked this verse:

  • "Oh humankind, we have created you from a male and a female,

  • and made you people and tribe, so you may know each other."

  • It was a universal call for peace, tolerance, and acceptance

  • coming from the side that we don't usually portray in a good way in the media.

  • I was amazed to see how the local community reacted to the painting,

  • and how it made them proud to see the minaret getting so much attention

  • from international press all around the world.

  • For the imam, it was not just the painting;

  • it was really deeper than that.

  • He hoped that this minaret would become a monument for the city,

  • and attract people to this forgotten place of Tunisia.

  • The universality of the message,

  • the political context of Tunisia at this time,

  • and the fact that I was writing Quran in a graffiti way

  • were not insignificant.

  • It reunited the community.

  • Bringing people, future generations,

  • together through Arabic calligraphy

  • is what I do.

  • Writing messages is the essence of my artwork.

  • What is funny, actually, is that even Arabic-speaking people

  • really need to focus a lot to decipher what I'm writing.

  • You don't need to know the meaning to feel the piece.

  • I think that Arabic script touches your soul before it reaches your eyes.

  • There is a beauty in it that you don't need to translate.

  • Arabic script speaks to anyone, I believe;

  • to you, to you, to you, to anybody,

  • and then when you get the meaning,

  • you feel connected to it.

  • I always make sure to write messages

  • that are relevant to the place where I'm painting,

  • but messages that have a universal dimension,

  • so anybody around the world can connect to it.

  • I was born and raised in France, in Paris,

  • and I started learning how to write and read Arabic when I was 18.

  • Today I only write messages in Arabic.

  • One of the reasons this is so important to me,

  • is because of all the reaction that I've experienced all around the world.

  • In Rio de Janeiro, I translated this Portuguese poem

  • from Gabrielarres Barbosa,

  • who was giving an homage to the poor people of the favela,

  • and then I painted it on the rooftop.

  • The local community were really intrigued by what I was doing,

  • but as soon as I gave them the meaning of the calligraphy,

  • they thanked me, as they felt connected to the piece.

  • In South Africa, in Cape Town,

  • the local community of Philippi

  • offered me the only concrete wall of the slum.

  • It was a school, and I wrote on it

  • a quote from Nelson Mandela,

  • saying, "[in Arabic],"

  • which means, "It seems impossible until it's done."

  • Then this guy came to me and said, "Man, why you don't write in English?"

  • and I replied to him, "I would consider your concern legit if you asked me

  • why I didn't write in Zulu."

  • In Paris, once, there was this event,

  • and someone gave his wall to be painted.

  • And when he saw I was painting in Arabic,

  • he got so mad -- actually, hysterical -- and he asked for the wall to be erased.

  • I was mad and disappointed.

  • But a week later, the organizer of the event asked me to come back,

  • and he told me that there was a wall right in front of this guy's house.

  • So, this guy --

  • (Laughter)

  • like, was forced to see it every day.

  • At the beginning, I was going to write, "[In Arabic],"

  • which means, "In your face," but --

  • (Laughter)

  • I decided to be smarter and I wrote, "[In Arabic],"

  • which means, "Open your heart."

  • I'm really proud of my culture,

  • and I'm trying to be an ambassador of it through my artwork.

  • And I hope that I can break the stereotypes we all know,

  • with the beauty of Arabic script.

  • Today, I don't write the translation of the message anymore on the wall.

  • I don't want the poetry of the calligraphy to be broken,

  • as it's art and you can appreciate it without knowing the meaning,

  • as you can enjoy any music from other countries.

  • Some people see that as a rejection or a closed door,

  • but for me, it's more an invitation --

  • to my language, to my culture, and to my art.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

In 2012, when I painted the minaret of Jara Mosque

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    Max Lin 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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