Bridging worlds: The Calligraffiti of eL Seed

I began my website with a blog entitled “Ahlan Wa Sahlan”. 

Through globalization or alienation, many of us find ourselves living in countries other than the ones we were born in. The whole question of identity in a global family needs to be investigated.

Where is home? Is home a place? What does it mean to belong? What is the meaning of family? Who is my family?

These are all questions that invite new interpretation and reflection in the 21st century.

Almost four years later, these questions are as relevant as ever. Added to that it is the fact that more than ever before, there is a need today for fruitful and effective dialogue, not only between individuals, but also between countries, cultures, and ideas. 

Such dialogue is possible when we practice respect, tolerance and acceptance in our dealing with others, whether it be in person or via our online communications. 

Suspension of judgment and assumptions, as we listen to the other, is crucial. As we do so, we begin to hear the other, over and above the mere words that are being spoken. 

Often we see these ideas reflected in the art we are accustomed to, and at other times new art forms themselves call us to look beyond what we hold as truth and broaden our perspectives.  

One artist whose work reflects all of this on many levels is eL Seed

Born in Paris of Tunisian parents, he knows what it is to be confronted with different languages, cultures and identities. He is a street artist whose work blends graffiti and Arabic calligraphy into a style he calls “calligraffiti”. More about him can be found on his website

For quite some time now I have been following the work of eL Seed via the internet.

Despite not being able to read the Arabic unless I ask for help with translation, I am drawn to the flowing forms and colors of his art, and was happy to read in an interview that,

“Much of my work process is about letting the viewer interact with the letters without necessarily being able to read them.”

It has always been one of my dreams to meet eL Seed, so I was very excited when I discovered via Instagram that he was busy on a project in Sharjah, an emirate about 140 km from Abu Dhabi. Knowing that if I wished to meet him, I needed to make the effort to get there, I immediately called a friend, and together we made our way to Sharjah. 

The pictures on Instagram prepared me for the site, which was an abandoned building which will be demolished in two or three years time. Unlike most graffiti artists, eL Seed does not sign his work. He says that while he paints he owns the place but after that it is left for the public and the focus is the content of the message.

As we arrived we were confronted with a huge hydraulic system with a working platform that could be moved around as needed. The platform was being lowered and in it stood eL Seed and his helper.  They were about to take a short break! 

What a delight it was to meet this artist! He welcomed us and was more than happy to tell us more about his current project. The flowing art making its way up the building was a poem by a 19th century Iraqi poet, Ahmed Bu Sneeda, who lived in Sharjah and who is said to have taught many of the inhabitants calligraphy. The poem was a monologue with a loved one: “I speak to you but you do not reply......”  

This monologue was being represented in an artwork which was very much a dialogue which encourages dialogue!  

I have often written how social media bridge cyberspace.  Social media had helped me meet this artist who through his work was encouraging others to bridge different cultures, languages and ideas. When I later posted a picture of the work in progress, eL Seed thanked me on my post for stopping by!

A consistent theme in his work is our common humanity. In an interview with the Huffington Post, el Seed was asked what messages he hopes to get across with his art.  He replied:

“I hope to get across to people that dialogue leads to positive encounters. I always hope to break a few stereotypes or barriers each time I paint.”

One of my favorite pieces has always been a wall he painted in Cape Town in South Africa, my country of birth. 

This week I did a bit of research and discovered that translated it is a quote from Nelson Mandela:

 “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” 

You can also see more of this artwork in a slide show I located here.

We are all more connected and interconnected than we realize. I end this blog with a quote from my home page

“here2here suggests connectivity and hints at interconnectedness.

here2here is a call to acknowledge the other, to broaden our perspectives and widen our embrace.

It is a call for heart and a plea for compassion.”


Are you a #mindfuliger


When I started out on Instagram I was living in Dubai, surrounded by amazing skyscrapers. That is where I was, so I decided to photograph the skyscrapers. 

Dubai is a cultural hot pot and offers one a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to, and practice taking different perspectives. We are so influenced by our upbringing, education and cultural backgrounds that it is not always easy to see a situation at hand from the perspective of another or in a way that encourages growth and change. 

Instead of seeing with open eyes, our vision is often blinkered or filtered.  On my Instagram account  I have tried to encourage the taking of different perspectives in all life situations, by mostly posting photographs which are lookups of buildings, photographing from different angles, or editing the photographs in such a way that a new perspective is presented. It is my wish that my photographs will be a gentle reminder to look at life with fresh eyes.  

In my photography I have been greatly influenced by the work of John Daido Loori Roshi. What follows is a transcript from one of my favorite youtube videos, in which he speaks about Zen Photography. 

“Look at what a photograph is. It’s like 1/60th of a second , or 1/120th of a second, or 1/1000 of a second sometimes. So it’s the moment.....

The moment is a fleeting thing. It arrives as it departs. But the moment is where a life takes place.  And unfortunately most of us miss it. We’re preoccupied with the past which doesn’t exist, it’s already happened. Or we’re preoccupied with the future, worrying about the future. It too doesn’t exist, it hasn’t happened yet. And while we’re so preoccupied, we miss the moment to moment awareness of our life. And that’s where our life takes place. We miss the moment, we’ve missed our lives. So that’s the importance of the moment.........”

My photography flows out of my mindfulness practice, but in many ways I use my photography as a mindfulness practice in itself. When I am out photographing, awareness of all that is happening around me is key.  To capture a scene which I will be able to incorporate into my art,  I need to be particularly alert, sensitive to, and mindful of the moment. 

Today I decided to start a new hashtag on Instagram. I suddenly realized again, something I have known for a long time. It’s all about the moment. Being mindful of the moment is a wonderful message to spread on Instagram. 

So are you a #mindfuliger?

I love words especially new ones! This one has a lovely sound to it. It could be from any language in the world! 

I believe the hashtag #mindfuliger has the potential to add an extra dimension to Instagram. 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”  -Viktor E. Frankl

If you would like to find out more about incorporating mindfulness into your photography,  you might like to take a look at  the website “Seeing Fresh”.  The About and Galleries sections have some wonderful info and assignments to try out. The end part of the John Daido Loori Roshi video also has some wonderful tips. 

“But when I photograph, what I try do is to get out of the way and let the photograph happen. Let the camera photograph by itself.”  -John Daido Loori Roshi

Are you mindful when you photograph? Would you like to be? Become a #mindfuliger and start adding the hashtag #mindfuliger to your work. I’m very excited to see this new stream on Instagram! 


Online Art Exhibition

The exhibition for Women in the Arts International Art Competition, 4th edition, curated by Artrom Network, is currently able to be viewed online. 

I am honored to have received the Special Recognition Award and take pleasure in sharing a link to the exhibition with you all. 


Noticing Turquoise


At different times in life, different colors seem to speak to us. Sometimes we notice it immediately and at other times we only realize it in retrospect.

In 2011, I wrote a blog entitled “Trend Blue”.  I showed how Blue, representing communication, was making itself heard in various areas of daily life as the newly acquired voice of the collective, aided by technology and most importantly the rise of social media.  

During the past two weeks, I have been working on a piece entitled “Yellow Notice”. The reasons for the title could fill another blog post. I mention it because despite its title, its main color is turquoise.

Summer fashions for 2014 are being dominated by the color turquoise. As the color trends, luxury fashion brands are even bringing out handbags and shoes in this color.

Turquoise is also currently trending in home decor and design. I discovered that especially popular is a combination of turquoise and yellow mixed with gray! Said to be daring it apparently nevertheless works. The boldness of the turquoise and yellow is neutralized by the gray.

In color psychology, turquoise is said to open the lines of communication between the heart and the spoken word. It encourages inner healing as it is said to enhance empathy and caring. The color of the evolved soul, it is believed to heighten intuition and encourage spiritual growth.

In our interconnected world, these qualities are needed as we learn to embrace and acknowledge our differences, as at the same time we find our sameness. Online, in here2here space, mindful use of technology has become imperative.

The word “turquoise” dates back to the 16th century. It is derived from an old French word meaning “Turkish”, because the mineral was first brought to Europe from Turkey, from mines in a province of Iran. In Iranian architecture, domes of palaces were covered with turquoise. Its intense color symbolized heaven on earth.

The people of Turkey used the color as decoration in many of their buildings by using turquoise ceramic glazed tiles. The color is often found in Islamic art and architecture.

While in Dubai this past week, I wandered around the creek (see gallery), exploring streets I had not visited before. It was early morning and I felt surrounded by raw life as I watched pedestrians buying freshly baked bread from little sidewalk shops and groups of friends drinking tea together in the souks.

I reached the Imam Hussein Iranian mosque on Ali Bin Abi Taleb Street and stood for a while admiring its doors and beautiful mosaic tiles. As I rounded a corner I noticed a young man sitting in front of one of its doors. There was a look on his face which caught my attention. On an impulse, I asked him if I might photograph him. He nodded.

Only after posting the image on instagram, did I realize that the colors turquoise and yellow were prominently there.

Further research into turquoise revealed that the southwest United States is also a significant source of this opaque blue-to-green mineral. New Mexico is said to have some of the oldest mines. Wandering down the corridors of cyberspace, I came across a lovely blog post with this passage: (I allow it to speak for itself)

“Turquoise represents stone of sky, stone of water, stone of blessings, good fortune, protection, good health and long life. To the Native Americans, turquoise is life. There are turquoise stones medicine men keep in their sacred bundles because they possess powers of healing. Turquoise is known for its positive healing energy, an aid in mental functions, communications and expression and as a protector.

If by looking for turquoise, I see more turquoise, I wonder what would happen if I begin to be more aware of other people's acts of kindness and courage and gratitude? I am sure these acts are already there. I would hope that by looking for them, I will see more of these acts of kindness and courage and gratitude. I will start looking for them and celebrate them with a deeper awareness and appreciation.”



Wisdom 2.0 comes to Europe

Ireland is known to have a number of “thin places”. 

In these places the veil between this world and what is referred to as the eternal world, is very thin. Such places are thought by many to have a special energy which can be sensed by those drawn to such sites, and which is said to often transform the one visiting. They are said to be stopping places where one can pause and ponder and catch a glimpse of something that lies beyond every-day living, and which is much greater than ourselves.

They are sacred, mystical places of listening, connection and creativity. 

The travel writer, Eric Weiner, writing on thin places in a wonderful piece in The New York Times, quotes Mircea Eliade who observed that “some parts of space are qualitatively different from others”, and an Apache proverb that takes the idea a step further: “Wisdom sits in places.”

I had researched the whole idea of “thin places” before I visited Ireland for the first time in 2013, and had visited some such sites.

I had not, however, expected to encounter another when I signed up for the Wisdom 2.0 Europe conference in Dublin!

Wisdom 2.0 conferences and events address the great challenge of our age: to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work and useful to the world.

Wisdom 2.0 is a global community of people dedicated to living with deeper wisdom, compassion and awareness in the digital age, and I have been following the conferences via the internet and social media since the first one, started by Soren Gordhamer, @SorenG, was held outside of San Francisco in 2009.

Many of the themes of my website here2here - connectivity, cyberspace, interconnectedness, compassion and mindfulness would be looked at closely at Wisdom 2.0 Europe

That the conference was to be held in Europe was my opportunity to attend and so I set off from AbuDhabi2Dublin!

AbuDhabi2Dublin - an edit I came up with on the way over 

The conference far surpassed my expectations. 

Excellent presentations and workshops looking at Mindful Living and Mindful Business filled the three days.

Highlights for me were:

Otto Scharmer, @ottoscharmer1, explaining holding the space which allows creativity to come forth.

Tania Singer, social neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, presenting “Training your Mind and Heart towards a Caring Society: A Social Neuroscience Perspective”.

Gelong Thubten, Buddhist monk of the Kagyu Tibeten tradition, speaking on “The Power of Forgiveness”.

Tsewang Namgyal, Vice President of the Bank of Tokyo, sharing his personal story aided by images and leading us on Day 3 in a compassion exercise.

Rohan Gunatillake, @rohan_21awake, named in 2012 by Wired magazine in their Smart List of 50 people who are about to change the word, presenting “Redesigning not Retreating: the Future of Mindfulness and Technology” 

Conference participants have shared experiences, photos and even notes online (check the hashtags #wisdom2europe #wisdom2conf)

Between talks, over tea and meals, new and special connections were established.

There was an almost palpable energy that filled the air.  I have thought about it and can only describe it as a great sense of Presence. 

The event was held at Googles Offices in Dublin. (More photos can be seen in this gallery).


Who would have thought that this space in the midst of Dublin’s docklands district would be so thin!

During the closing ceremony one of the participants spoke as the voice of Ireland and encouraged us to find some place after the conference to connect with the earth and listen to what it had to say.  

Walking home I entered the grounds of  Trinity College and sat down to be still on a park bench.  Near me there was a tree.  As I became mindful of the sounds around me, birdsong from the tree filled the air.  I had never heard such a bird before and was struck by the beauty of its sounds.

When I shared this story with a friend back in Abu Dhabi, she picked up a poetry book and read me a poem by Rumi which contained the following words: 

“The bird of my heart has again begun to flutter.....

The water is flowing again in this river; by the riverbank the grass has begun to shoot. 

The dawn breeze is blowing again in the garden, it has begun to blow over rose and rosebed. 

Love sold me for a single fault; Love’s heart burned, and has begun to buy back.

He drove me away; compassion came to him and called; Love has begun to look kindly upon me....” 

Was this the voice of Ireland? Was this the voice of my heart? Was this the song needing to be heard in the digital age? Perhaps all of these and much more.  

She’s here! A new piece for LindArt inspired by Wisdom 2.0 Europe. 

I recalled what had been said at the start of the conference:

There is a need to connect with self before connecting with others via technology.


Related articles:

Whirling Dervishes - lessons for cyberspace

Social Media - Bridging Cyberspace

Mobile Technology and The White Rabbit

Linda in Wonderland

Cybeflanerie: Deep Listening in Cyberspace

Mindfulness and The Flaneur