Johannesburg - At the corner of Rivonia Road and  Sandton Drive in Johannesburg, just  outside Sandton City, there are two  words, one on top of the other.
Be Kind, they say. They’re the first  in what David Masinter hopes will ultimately be a series of 18 art installations  around Johannesburg.

It’s a project to break the spiral of  negativity – particularly in the City of  Gold.

“I’m tired of people saying this is a  crime city, that there’s nothing worth  celebrating. I want to motivate them  to think differently, but most of all just  to be kind.”

The artwork follows a poster board campaign that ran for three months last  year, being suspended over December  and January, and which will restart in  February.

The campaign, stark in its simplicity,  merely injunctions to drivers and passers-by: “Tell someone They Look Great”  read one; “Just Be Kind” instructed  another; “Complain Less , Smile More”,  “Make Someone A Coffee” and even,  “Call Your Mom”.

“We are just trying to bring the art  of kindness to Johannesburg,” says the  Chabad House Rabbi who was the architect of Acts of Random Kindness, the 
little yellow plastic arks that have been  distributed to Johannesburgers for the  last five years for them to fill up with  unwanted change and given randomly  to those in need.

Masinter is a firm believer in the  overwhelming humanity and compassion of people – especially South Africans.

“There’s a teaching,” he says, “that  if someone does bad, speaks it or even  thinks it, a negative energy is created.  On the other hand, if one does good,  speaks good, a positive energy is created.”

So far, 700 000 arks have been distributed since 2014, with Masinter’s goal  being a million.

Added to that, 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 hope to build on this.

“We’re not selling anything. We’re  only advertising kindness,” he says.

“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.” 

* Ritchie is a media consultant.

** If you would like to participate in the project, email Masinter at [email protected]

Saturday Star