Three weeks ago, David Masinter announced his intention to launch a series of public artworks to get the people in Johannesburg to start treating each other better.
It was simple. “Be Kind,” was the mantra. What he never bargained for was the overwhelming response from readers and the community at large – or the fact that his idea would be copied.
The Johannesburg rabbi had begun the process with a soft launch of advertising poster boards between September and November last year. In January, through the Saturday Star, he’d asked for suggestions about where to place these 18 art installations and invited people who wanted to know more to contact him.
In the process, Liberty came on board sponsoring the entire first phase of the project, with ad agency Net#work BBDO doing the artwork for free, but so too did people let him know of two separate billboards; one carrying the exhortation “Be Kind” and the other, wholly unrelated in terms of locality or ownership, enjoining: “Be Kinder.”
Masinter isn’t angry at all at someone taking his idea, in fact, he’s rather pleased.
“This is the whole point of the campaign. The fact that companies are using the tag line for their own gain is irrelevant. They’re helping to promote kindness in their own way – and that’s what we are trying to do, in any case.”
Masinter wants the campaign to break the spiral of negativity that always seems to have Johannesburg in its thrall. It builds on the Chabad House rabbi’s earlier campaign: Acts of Random Kindness, the little yellow plastic arks that have been distributed to Johannesburgers for the past five years for them to fill up with unwanted change and given randomly to those in need.
So far 700 000 arks have been distributed since 2014, with Masinter’s goal being a million within the next few years. About 140 000 underprivileged children have benefited from the parallel Chabad House literacy programme that establishes township libraries and trains teachers.
The art project and the billboard campaign build on this.
“We’re not selling anything, we’re only advertising kindness,” he says. “These outdoor signage companies are welcome to take part. They don’t need to create their own artwork, we’ll even supply it to them for free – if they really want to make a difference.
“All we are hoping to accomplish is to foster an increase in acts of goodness and kindness in our city and beyond – and, by doing that, change the world for good.”
If you would like to participate in the project, email Masinter at:firstname.lastname@example.org