Before I Die in Johannesburg, South Africa!

THE STORY

After losing someone she loved and experiencing deep depression, artist Candy Chang created an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood to create an anonymous place to help restore perspective and share intimately with neighbors while remaining an introvert. After receiving permission, she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence, “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

It was all an experiment and she didn’t know what to expect. By the next day, the wall was full of responses and it kept growing: Before I die I want to… sing for millions, plant a tree, hold her one more time, straddle the International Date Line, see my daughter graduate, eat more everything, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself…  She understood her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded her that she’s not alone as she tries to make sense of her life.

After posting a few photos online, the images spread and she received hundreds of messages from people who wanted to make a wall with their community. She created this website with resources and now thanks to passionate people around the world, over 550 Before I Die walls have been created in over 35 languages and over 70 countries, including Kazakhstan, Iraq, Haiti, China, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Argentina, and South Africa. The Before I Die book is a celebration of these walls and the stories behind them. Follow the latest Before I Die walls and responses on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and a seasonal newsletter. Say hello here.

“One of the most creative community projects ever.” – The Atlantic

Steven Slotow said, “If any country in the world knows about dreams coming true, it’s South Africa!

So when I saw the “Before I Die” project for the first time online, I knew this was a project that South Africans would embrace. Candy Chang gave us the go-ahead and within days I had found the right wall in the Maboneng District in Johannesburg CBD.

A month in and the wall is still going strong. I visit each Sunday morning to jot down the old dreams and wipe it down to make space for the new ones. I’m never disappointed.”

This wall was born in April, 2012.

Made with love by Steven Slotow and the Urban Arts Festival in Johannesburg

THE BOOK

Before-I-Die-book-coverAfter losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled the sentence, “Before I die I want to _____.” Within a day of the wall’s completion, it was covered in colorful chalk dreams as neighbors stopped and reflected on their lives. Since then, more than 550 Before I Die walls have been created in over 70 countries and stenciled in over 35 languages by passionate people all over the world. This full-color hardcover book is an inspiring celebration of these public walls and the stories behind them. Filled with hope, fear, humor, and heartbreak, Before I Die presents an intimate portrait of the dreams within our communities and a chance to ponder life’s ultimate question with the people around us. The Before I Die book is a recipient of a 2014 American Library Association award and Publishers Weekly calls it, “a powerful and valuable reminder that life is for the living, and it’s never too late, or too early, to join the party.”

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