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Cairo Gets a Giant Optical Illusion Celebrating Its Garbage Pickers

The artwork only makes sense when viewed from one specific place.

A video posted by eL Seed (@elseed) on

Seen from most spots in the Cairo ward of Manshiyat Naser, the new mural “Perception” from French-Tunisian street artist eL Seed looks like disjointed, twisting piles of snakes. But spied from a special vantage point on the nearby Mokattam Mountain, it all comes together as a huge, intricate emblem with a message about humility and garbage.

Manshiyat Naser is home to Cairo’s legion of Zabbaleen, the (literally translated) “trash people” responsible for gathering and recycling the city’s refuse. Like similar communities in Brazil, the Zabbaleen perform a crucial yet underappreciated task. To highlight their important work, eL Seed spent weeks in the neighborhood painting and hanging out with the workers, who he calls “generous, honest and strong people.”

Here’s more from the artist:

In my new project “Perception” I am questioning the level of judgment and misconception society can unconsciously have upon a community based on their differences.

In the neighborhood of Manshiyat Nasr in Cairo, the Coptic community of Zaraeeb collects the trash of the city for decades and developed the most efficient and highly profitable recycling system on a global level. Still, the place is perceived as dirty, marginalized and segregated.

To bring light on this community, with my team and the help of the local community, I created an anamorphic piece that covers almost 50 buildings only visible from a certain point of the Moqattam Mountain. The piece of art uses the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the 3rd century, that said: “Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.”

A photo posted by eL Seed (@elseed) on

A photo posted by eL Seed (@elseed) on

A photo posted by eL Seed (@elseed) on

H/t Street Art News

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.