SUNRA, THE GRAFFITI AT HEART
Sana Sbouai / France
Sana Sbouai / France
In Montpellier, by strolling around the city, you can find yourself face to face with street artworks made of hearts. These are the works of Sunra, a Franco-Tunisian street artist.
Photo of Sunra's collage in Tunis in 2011. Image credit: Sunra
Although he's a shy guy, Sunra, a 36-year-old street artist from Montpellier, doesn't hesitate to display proofs of love all around his city. When using painting he feels more communicative, he places at least one heart in each of his artwork.
Sunra is Mediterranean, but not the kind of those who speak with their hands, who move air, exaggerate everything. The artist is a thoughtful man, imperturbably calm, he weighs each of his words, he says he is shy and tells his story bit by bit. He is far from the stereotypical image of a street artist as we imagine, running from walls to roofs, to cover facades with obscure signs.
A thirst for culture
Nina Simone, work by Sunra in Montpellier. Image credit: Sana Sbouaï
Sunra grew up in Tunisia. He was schooled there, he got his high school degree and was admitted to start a Fine Arts program, but he wanted to go out of the country: "I wanted to discover the world, I had a thirst for culture that I could not satisfy in Tunisia...” This hip-hop fan packed up, he stayed on the Mediterranean coast, but on the other side. He arrived in Montpellier in 2001: "one day before September 11".
He joined an art college where he studied cinema for two years, he searched for himself, he clung to the artistic world and wanted to play music. He eventually studied graphic design and began a career in visual communication, while trying to remain close to music: "At the time I contacted artists through Myspace to make designs for the musicians I liked."
When he finished design school he started to work as a freelancer, he accumulated various small and difficult jobs: "all those little jobs that, when you get to do what you love, allow you to say that you are happy to have done them, that it has taught you what life really is..." He was eventually hired by a communication agency. Until drawing took an increasingly important role in his life.
"The revolution will be live"
Back then Sunra was versatile, he took pictures, he was interested in street art but did not dare to take the plunge. This was the time when the Tunisian revolution erupted. "This revolution made me want to do something, to identify with it. To stand up for this Arab world... When I was studying, I was always doing projects related to the Arab world... it was the thing that allowed me to bring up something new," says the young man.
He made his first collage in Tunisia, in 2011. He did an appropriation of a Gil Scott-Heron album cover, he used as well as a quote from a song: "The revolution will be live". He made it as a poster, which he glued on a wall of the capital. His father joined him and he asked him to add a sentence. The latter wrote, with a red marker, the three words chanted by the Tunisian citizens: "Freedom, democracy, justice".
This tall shy man makes it clear: "I was in a "I hide myself mode", I was anonymous... I'm always afraid of what people will think, I'm benevolent so I always put myself in someone else's shoes..." That's why he didn't sign his street artworks at the beginning. It is Oups, a street artist friend, with whom he has regularly collaborated, who pushed him to disclose his identity.
"Heal the soul and the heart"
For Sunra, each creation requires a dose of reflection, he combines images and words to go beyond the visual aspect and expand the story. Love, quotes, his universe is poetic, yes, but not cheesy. " I often refer to public figures that I find appealing, also in order to reach out to people."
He says he has finally found his way with painting: "It is the tool that suits me best. This medium makes it possible to reach people, without being as in the light as musicians can be, and while sharing a message." With his works he conveys a message and wants to be useful: "I tell myself that what I do must be more than just something pretty. I hope that people who watch my works have a nice day, that it inspires them... as the doctor treats the body, the artist treats the soul and the heart. That's what I like about my job."
Sunra_"True generosity towards the future is to give everything to the present." L'Homme révolté (1951) Albert Camus - Rue du Maroc