Interview with RamZ (Ramzi Saibi) – Artist of Lakkos Area in Heraklion

Interview with RamZ (Ramzi Saibi) – Artist of Lakkos Area in Heraklion

A new category on AboutHeraklion Blog is inaugurated today 🙂 Interviews!
A place is not only the buildings, is not only the past and its present .. but also the people who live in it and the people who visit it, leaving a little piece of their aura here.

Heraklion has always been a crossroad of many civilizations, of many cultures. If you walk silently through its narrow alleys, you will feel and maybe even hear the echoes of the people who lived and loved there…

One of the ..vintage areas of Heraklion, that has changed a lot the last few years thanks to the residents and the initiative of Mathew Halpin, an Australian artist who lives in Crete.

This is where the idea for this interview started 🙂 …

My first encounter with his art was when I saw a video of someone writing beautiful calligraphic letters on a yellow wall. I immediately recognized that place, one of Lakkos’ residences.. At that very moment I was interesting to know who the artist was.

The artist’s name is RamZ. I was happy to find out that he was in Heraklion city! Of course I had to go and take the opportunity to ask a few questions.

AboutHeraklion: Dear RamZ, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! I would like to ask a few things about you .. Tell us where you come from, where you live and what your main occupation is…

RamZ: Thank you for your interest in my art. I am a French-Tunisian street-artist. I was born and live in Paris. I mix Arabic letters and graffiti. We can say that it is calligraffiti.


AboutHeraklion: Do you still have bonds with Tunisia? Do you visit?

RamZ: Yes of course, a big part of my family is there and I love my second country and culture too. I did not visit Tunisia the past years but I know Tunisia well.


AboutHeraklion: What are your hobbies, what else besides drawing do you enjoy doing?

RamZ: In the beginning art was a hobby for me and I never thought that it will be my job in the future. So art is still a hobby (lol)

More seriously, I love traveling and meet new people and cultures. It is very important for me. I really need it in my life.


AboutHeraklion: When did you start your journey into .. art?

RamZ: I began very soon when was a child but my first connection with Arabic calligraphy was later when I was a teenager for the summer vacations with my parents in Tunisia. I could neither read nor write but I was fascinated by the beauty of Arabic letters

AboutHeraklion: Which are your favorite themes? What material do you paint on?

RamZ: I don’t have a favourite theme because my art is abstract and there is no meaning…

Before being my job, art was a sort of therapy for me. In France I was considered like a Tunisian and in Tunisia like a French. The question was who I am? Mixing my two cultures through my art was a way to show what I am and that I can be the both. Now I know that having two cultures is a strength.

My art shows that mixing cultures and languages is possible. It is a mix between my two cultures and I am proud of the both. Everyone can interpret it and read it with their own sensitivity. It is a way to unite people.

I paint on everything so there is no limit: walls, canvases, paper, wood, metal, glass, textile…


AboutHeraklion: When did you visit Heraklion city and tell us please how did you decide to come from France to Crete?

RamZ: I came in Heraklion city in October 2020. It is my first time in Greece. I decided to join the Lakkos Artists Residency managed by Mathew Halpin for many reasons: leaving Paris’ fast life to take a step back on my artistic approach and be productive in a foreign country I never visited. Crete island was the good option. I did not know why but it was something I felt. It is like an introspection to be here and I did not regret.


AboutHeraklion: What were your first thoughts when you first visited Heraklion? What is the first thing you remember?

RamZ: I thought I were in Tunisia (lol). Tunisian and Cretan are both Mediterranean. We have a lot of similarities in food, music, culture… Here I feel at home. A Cretan is closer to a Tunisian than a Parisian. I really love Greek people and I don’t say that for the interview. It is like my second family.


AboutHeraklion: Are there any similarities between Paris & Heraklion?
RamZ: Not really. Paris is bigger and people always run but they don’t know why they run (lol). In Paris we don’t take the time, but the time take us. I was born in Paris and I have the habit of that. But for someone new it can be crazy and I understand. Paris is also a beautiful city with a lot of things to do and especially for artists. It is the place to be.


AboutHeraklion: You arrive at Lakkos .. impressions? Feelings?
RamZ: I read about Lakkos before I came. I was not surprised because it is like popular areas in Tunisia. We can say that I know all the codes.


Mural in Lakkos Area | Artist: Kokoris

AboutHeraklion: Tell us about Lakkos Project, what is the thing you like the most about it? What about the area? What about the people living here?

RamZ: The Lakkos project is managed by the Australian artist Mathew Halpin. This man is very modest and extremely talented. I learn a lot with him. All the artists share their artistic approaches and it is very interesting and enriching.

I really love walking in the streets of Lakkos and see all the murals did by many artists from around the world managed by the Lakkos project. It is unique in Heraklion city.

The Lakkos project tries to highlight the beauty of the area in order for the locals to see the value in keeping it in its current state” (Mathew Halpin).

If you go to Lakkos, you should eat in Kafenio and visit the streets full of street art.

When I painted my first wall in Lakkos, I had good and human interactions with people. They offered me homemade bread, coffee and they invited me also for dinner. It was a really amazing

AboutHeraklion: Where do you like to hang around? Is there any part of the city that inspires you?

RamZ: I like running on the old walls from the center to the beach. The view is crazy. The city center is beautiful also and walking near to the harbour is very inspiring.


AboutHeraklion: What would you advise an artist who would like to visit Heraklion? What places should they absolutely visit and not miss?

RamZ: I will not advise people about some places but just walking and taking time. It is the best way to discover Heraklion city.


AboutHeraklion: What would you advise an artist who would like to participate to the Lakkos Project? Who do they contact?

RamZ: To have an idea about what you want to do before is a must. Artists have to contact Mathew Halpin on the Lakkos Artists Residency website.


AboutHeraklion: How did you decide what you would paint in the city?

RamZ: I was sketching a lot of circular compositions before I came in the Lakkos Artists Residency. It was my first circular calligraffiti so I didn’t think a lot about it.


Power of the Letters

AboutHeraklion: Tell us when was the beginning of your Power of the Letters inspiration and how was it realized?

RamZ: POTL is my clothing brand created in 2017 and launched in 2018 in Paris. This is the acronym of Power Of The Letters. During my solo show “FUTURE” in Hong Kong in 2016 I printed some artworks on t-shirts for my guests… In the beginning it was just for having fun but people were interested to buy them. So I decided to create my own brand inspired by my art. It is an another way to promote my it.


AboutHeraklion: What about the letters in your art? Do your paintings hide a special meaning? A special message? Do you envision the result in advance or is it something coming out of you naturally?

RamZ: My art is abstract. I paint letters but there is no meaning. People can read my compositions with their own sensitivity even if they do not read Arabic. Recently I include Greek letters in my work like: Θ or Φ.

When I listen Greek music it is not necessary for me to understand the lyrics to appreciate it. I feel emotions and it is the most important. I think it is the same with my art. It is why my art became abstract. Is it really necessary to be read? Yes there is no meaning and you can not read anything but mixing cultures through letters is deeper in my sense.

When I paint I mix between improvisation and sketching before. I really love the fact that I don’t know exactly where I am going when I paint. There is more liberty and each artwork is unique.


AboutHeraklion: How do you select what you will paint?

RamZ: I select colors, the general shape but the rest is more improvisation and feelings…


AboutHeraklion: What is your vision about Power of the Letters?

RamZ: I am developing the brand and working on the new permanent collection. It is a lot of work but I like it. It is challenging.


AboutHeraklion: Are there any personal or business plans you would like to share with us? What does the future hold? 🙂

RamZ: If you follow me on the social medias I have something new coming. Keep in touch 😉

Giveaway!

AboutHeraklion: Tell us about the giveaway with AboutHeraklion and please share some words about the products and the stamp they have on them. What do they depict? What made you select this specific artwork for your potl shop?

RamZ: The giveaway contest is a collaboration with aboutheraklion and the opportunity to win 2 POTL products for people who live in Greece. There is one mask and one totebag.

I said that my art became abstract but the composition printed on the products is a sentence in Arabic. It is an exception. The translation is: “IGNORANCE IS THE GREATEST POVERTY”. I choose this artwork for the power and the universality of the message.

We will know the two winners on December 20, 2020.

Still time to participate (LINK) when this post is published.


AboutHeraklion: Are you visiting Heraklion again? 

RamZ: Yes of course!  I am at home here and I have to come again to see all my friends.


AboutHeraklion: What other parts of Crete (or Greece) do you dream of visiting?

RamZ: I visited a big part of Crete in October before the lockdown and it is an amazing island. I didn’t go to Athens yet but I have to. I am not to much attracted by touristic places like Santorini or Mykonos…


AboutHeraklion: Do you do Commission Art? 

RamZ: Yes of course. People contact me on Instagram, FBK and also on my website for art commissions.


AboutHeraklion: Where can someone find/support you and of course see more of your work?

(i.e. social media links, patreon etc)

RamZ: Here:

Instagram: @ramzisaibi https://www.instagram.com/ramzisaibi/

Facebook : @RamziSaibii https://www.facebook.com/RamziSaibii

www.ramz-art.com


AboutHeraklion: Is there something you would like to share (That maybe we did not ask?)

RamZ: I want to say a big thank you to aboutheraklion for this sharing moment. Thank you for sharing my art. σε ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ


And a few bonus questions!

AboutHeraklion: What Superpower would you want to have? And why?

RamZ: The power to eradicate racism. It is still a problem in 2020.

AboutHeraklion: If you were not an artist, what would you be doing?

RamZ: I do not know really and it is a very good question. Life without art has not flavour.

Helping animals for sure.


AboutHeraklion: If it was not a matter of money, where would you travel for holidays and which country would you like to live in?

RamZ: I would to travel around the world. I had many countries in my mind I can not choose only one (lol). And for the country I would like to live in maybe Greece and it is not a joke.

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I take this opportunity to thank once more RamZ for his time! Is there anything else you would like to know about him? You can reach him at the social media channels or let me know and I can come back with a second part in a few months! (When this new thing will be announced)

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As always, feel free to let us know your ideas, feedback, comments or suggestions!
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Please note:

All the images used in this post are shared with the permission of the artist RamZ or belong to AboutHeraklion. Please contact us if you would like to share any of them.