Planting a billboard, growing a future

 
 
 

Life in the city is like living in an advertisement. Giant billboards line congested highways,  fill shopping malls, and cover apartment block windows. Made from metres of synthetic material, they turn to waste once the ad is over. When Manuela Wall looks up at these commercial vinyls, she doesn’t see the product they’re selling. Instead, she recognises an opportunity to turn a concrete jungle into an urban oasis.

Wall left her home in Germany to pursue her passion for gardening. She had little space and barely any sun to satisfy her green fingers. On arrival in Cape Town, Wall discovered Soil For Life – an organisation that teaches communities to grow their own food. She saw how those involved were struggling to fulfill their gardening needs, resorting to shoes and plastic bags to plant in. When Wall realised there was a gap in the process of removing and recycling billboards, she set out to convert them into pots and planters. “I came up with the idea of creating life out of material that is dead,” she says.

For her initiative, GROWbag, Wall chooses fabrics based on colour combinations. She cuts away references to brands and restitches the billboard vinyl. The finished product goes to gardening communities, offering an attractive incentive to grow food. Sometimes, the opportunity to protect the environment is right in front of us – plastered on the side of a building.