Before I Die

December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami is believed to be one of the deadliest tsunamis in history, killing more than 230,000 people across 14 countries. 14 years after, the aftermath can still be felt, for some more than the others.

Fourteen years ago, while everyone was reveling this joyous holiday, little did they know that hours later they will face a catastrophic moment which will forever change or rather take away the lives of a multitude- leaving most homeless and affected for the years to come. That is the very nature of life and death; uncertain and unforeseen.

Before I Die project is global art project initiated by Candy Chang in New Orleans which examines the ways in which the walls of our cities can be used to help us grapple with death and its meaning as a community today. Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on death and life, and share their personal aspirations. Fourteen years after the tsunami exercised its wrath on our country, the Rotaract club of SLIIT initiated the project “Before I Die”; inviting everyone to reflect upon death, to take a moment to consider things which matter the most and share their personal aspirations with others. Thanks to passionate people around the world, over 4,000 “Before I Die” walls have now been created in over 70 countries. These participatory installations serve as a memento mori for individuals to reflect upon their mortality with neighbors and passersby.

The Rotaract Club of SLIIT was vested on the idea of bringing this project to Sri Lanka and was able to put up the first wall at the Hikkaduwa Beach with immense support from Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon on the 26th of December 2018- 14 years after the catastrophic tsunami hit the island. The wall was put up in dedication to the thousands of individuals who lost their lives unexpectedly from the tsunami and to their unfulfilled dreams.


Passersby, both locals and visitors from all around the world would stop by & take a moment to reflect on the disaster: some even sharing their personal experiences in relation to the disaster or death. They then would grab a piece of chalk & share some of their personal aspirations & desires: some of them fun while others were profound; regardless they were amusing to read.



Here’s what a South African traveler who stopped by on the day share with us:


“This is a great initiative to commemorate or more so to mourn on the people who never got a chance to do all the things we get to do as living people. There’s so much more than meeting people or seeing people. That’s why I wrote to ‘Before I die I want to give something back” which will last, in a way that someone else who would’ve had the chance no longer does.”

So, If you too take a trip down-south, make sure you head down to the Hikkaduwa beach & share your thoughts.. It’s just a simple thought, but it’ll be enough to at least for few seconds touch on the lives of many who will take a moment to read the wall. Perhaps, it’ll remind them of their own dreams and goals, make them smile or laugh at what’s written or perhaps spark a meaningful conversation on life, death, hopes, dreams… 

As this chapter of the project concludes ( Yes, there’s more to come!), we hope the wall serves as a memento; in some way filling the void created by this calamity by giving life to the memory of the thousands of lives lost and more importantly, serving as a reminder of how short, delicate & uncertain life can be, so to be conscious of and pursue what really matters to you without being carried away in the regularities of the day-to-day life.


Written by-

Tharindhie Alles,

Co-editor 2018-19

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