If you live in the city of gold, no doubt you've occasionally come into contact with the tarnished bits. Read the latest headlines and you're inclined to believe things are shitty. I love this city, but sometimes you need to be reminded why you love something. Sure, that reminder is different for everyone, but for me it comes in the form of a small, black rectangle, rebelliously placed in unexpected spaces.
They're my favourite piece of "vandalism" (and this is in a city with some great graf out there), nagging at me for quite a while. I needed to find out who was behind them.
I first spotted one maybe three years ago. Since then I've become a little obsessed - peeling them off, keeping them, re-sticking them in unexpected spaces of my own. Who put them up? Some sort of plain-clothed, suburban superhero type who wanted to make people feel better? Who the hell has time for that?
JHBLive: We've found them all over the city. Tell us about the 'EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OK' stickers. Where and when did you get started?
Elli Garb: The premise is simple: An unfussy sticker with a modest message stuck everywhere. Step and repeat throughout the city. It's a Joburg born and bred project and has been going for about five years.
JHBLive: What inspired this project?
EG: Miss Tomfoolery meets vandalism-lite. I was feeling down a few years ago so I decided to indulge myself. I left it stuck up in all the places I went to.
I dig the idea of little bursts of positivity greeting people in unlikely (or overlooked) places. I also really dig free stuff, so right from the start this project had to be self-funded, independent and distributed free of charge.
These days, I'm inspired by the stories I hear about the sticker. Who saw it where, how it made them feel, why it hit the spot, etc.
Often people peel the stickers off because they want one for themselves. I really like that. Other stickers have stayed stuck for ages, growing faded and weathered. I really like that too.
JHBLive: I'm one of the self-professed sticker peelers. Glad you approve. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've heard you went around in the dead of night, when you were most afraid of the city, putting these up?
EG: That was actually a graffiti campaign I did about 10 years ago - "I AM NOT AFRAID" - sprayed in scary places. It was a visual commitment to a decision I had made not to be afraid of the very town I was born in.
JHBLive: Tell us about your fear of the city. Where did it come from? How has this changed since you've started stickering?
EG: I guess that Johannesburg's sinister side started harshing my mellow. I didn't like the fact that people felt like they had been taken hostage in the place where they lived. It was a real conflict for me - on the one hand I liked Joburg and all it had to offer, but on the other hand it simply didn't feel approachable. I didn't want to dwell in that limbo place, so I picked team Get-Up-And-Do-Something.
JHBLive: What, if any, other projects like this have you been a part of or helped start up in Joburg?
EG: I'm not a great art team player. I like doing stuff by myself. My repertoire consists primarily of decals, freehand spray painted messages and stencil graffiti.
JHBLive: That can't be it for you. What do you do for a day job?
EG: I have had a few career incarnations, so I continue to do a mash-up of things, which then amount to a busy, but super-varied "day job." I'm a graphic designer, I am a certified addictions counsellor and I have a little jewellery business. Idle hands and all that...
JHBLive: There are plenty people out there who are terrified of our city and still don't like coming into the CBD at night or even on weekend days. You've got this succinct message you deliver with the stickers, but why do you think it's important for people to stop being afraid?
EG: I think it's about deciding not to let the city bully you. It's about having some street suss and looking after your self when you venture out. There are such inspiring things happening in the CBD and Johannesburg at large. Cool things to look at and fun things to do. What is really criminal is remaining in your Summercon complex bitching but not getting off the couch and seeking a bit of local adventure.
JHBLive: Your philosophy is intriguingly simple, so... is everything going to be okay?
EG: Thousands of stickers later, today has been a good day.
If you want some stickers, let Elli know. The only deal is this - you keep some for you and make some part of your public display of affection. Contact her on this email address