Share The Word Project
Hi, Guys!! Welcome to my 3rd post in the inspirational section of my blog, Its a section dedicated to celebrating others. It’s what I love the most about this age of social media, connecting with other creatives, and like minded people.
Today’s inspirational creative is 29-year-old Seb Toussaint, a British-French Street Artist from Normandy France. He’s painted 137 murals in 11 countries, Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, India, Iraq, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, Brazil, and France. He’s a very talented Street Artist and his work is stunning, however, what sets him apart is the context in which he creates his work. For over 4 years he’s been traveling the slums and refugee camps of the world for his ‘Share The Word’ project. A project where he asks locals to choose words they wish to express painted on the walls of their homes a very simple idea that has had an incredible impact on individuals and many communities. I caught up with Seb and here are 11 questions and answers that best explain what he’s doing.
1. Where was your first trip?
In 2011 and 2012 I cycled around the world with my 2 best mates. It took a whole year and was a great experience, I learned a lot about the world, and about myself and what I’d be able to do in this world. In 2013 I went to a slum in Jakarta, Indonesia with one of these 2 friends (Spag) to try out an idea we had of asking people to choose a word that’s important to them and painted these words on their house. The project worked well, the locals enjoyed it as much as we did, and that’s how “Share The Word Project” was born.
2. What keeps you going back to these communities to install art?
Everything about the project is addictive! When you’re working in a slum or a refugee camp for 4 or 5 weeks, you get to know many people, eat with different families, make friends, etc… So I’m surrounded by people while I’m painting on the houses, and they make me feel part of their community very quickly. Being part of a group, feeling part of a family is what makes it difficult to leave these places.
And of course, I like what the project is able to do. As well as making the slum look a little more colourful, it attracts attention to neighbourhoods that no one cares about. And suddenly because of this project, people from the outside of the neighbourhood start coming in to have a look, and journalists write articles about places which they usually ignore. In some places the slums I painted became kind of “cool” and people started coming into the neighbourhood to shoot music videos or fashion photography. The locals felt proud that people from the outside were interacting with them, they felt a little more included in society. It’s only a very small step, it isn’t going to change everyone’s life, but art certainly can make a real positive impact.
3. Who is your artistic inspiration? (Where do you get your ideas from?) (Who inspires you?)
I get my inspiration from a variety of things. I’d say that being curious is the most important thing to stay inspired. I can get ideas of cool patterns by just looking at women’s saris in India, or by visiting mosques in Turkey or Egypt. I can get ideas of colours to use by looking at artwork by Matisse, packets of crisps in Bolivia, or Chinese iced tea bottles.
4. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your life was at stake?
Slums aren’t always the safest places to be working in, at least at the beginning. I have been harassed a little in the past, but it’s always happened during the first few days working in a slum. But nothing major has happened, most people in the world are genuinely nice people. Communities have a lot of respect for people who are trying to do something positive in their neighbourhood, so everyone watches out for me. In a few slums like in Kenya or Egypt, I’ve witnessed a lot of violence, but towards me.
5. What do your friends and family think about what you do?
They are very supportive! They have never told me not to go somewhere because it’s too dangerous or told me to get a “proper job”. I just think they like the idea of the project and the fact that I’m doing what I love the most.
6. Which of your works have you found the most rewarding?
It’s hard to pick one, but the huge “PAZ” (peace in Spanish) mural I painted on 16 different houses in Colombia had a great impact. The art caught a lot of attention in local and international media. The president of Colombia talked about the project on his Facebook account, and so did the armed guerilla organisation FARC. The Colombian state and the FARC were in the process of signing a peace treaty to put an end to 50 years of violence, and this huge mural with the word “PEACE” became a symbol that both sides of the conflict identified with. I had no idea that my work would have this sort of impact!
7. Have you kept in contact with any of the communities you’ve helped?
More and more people worldwide have access to the internet, even in slums. This enables me to stay in contact with people and know what’s going on these places I miss.
8. What does a street artist of your kind wear? (on days off)
When I’m painting I’m just wearing a simple t-shirt and shorts that are covered in paint. It’s a very boring outfit, to be honest. So when I’m off work, I love wearing suits or combining very formal wear with more casual stuff like jeans with a skinny tie, or a suit with white trainers. I’m a fan of the classic crisp white shirt, I have many and love wearing them with everything from leather jackets, blazers, trench coats… I guess my style is timeless to some extent. People were wearing white shirts with black ties 20 years ago, 50 years ago or even 100 years ago. And people will still be wearing this in the future! I like using a lot of colour when I paint, but strangely I never wear bright colours in my outfits.
9. Who is your style icon?
I love Janelle Monae’s androgynous style! Her outfits can be quite masculine but her swag is so feminine and elegant. David Beckham’s always wears perfect suits, no extravagance, always very well cut. Of course, I like most things by Yves Saint Laurent.
10. Do you have any plans of turning your work into other works of art? (coffee table books, prints) (I want a skirt in one of the prints) 🙂
I haven’t yet written a book, but it’s only a matter of time before I release one! It will be a great opportunity not only to show pictures of my art but also to tell stories of the people whose words I paint around the world. In the future, I’d love to design fashion. Some of the patterns I paint on walls would look great on fabric!
11. What word would you choose to paint on your house and why?
Maybe I’d choose the word “freedom”. It’s one of the values really worth fighting for. Freedom in society is a fragile thing, there will always be people trying to take away freedom, and there’ll always more freedom to fight for.
Thank you for stopping by, catch up with all of Seb’s work, link listed below.
Always wonderful to hear from you so make a comment below.
Twitter – @sebtoussaint
Instagram – @sebtoussaint
Facebook – @sebtoussaint