Creativity cures: Painted pebbles spread love after recent Knysna fires

A new, gentle way of reaching out to one another in the aftermath of the Knysna fires is spreading like - well, like wildfire.

“Knysna Rocks is a kind of treasure hunt using painted pebbles,” says Ashley Barnes, the founder of the Knysna Rocks Facebook group, who’s dedicated herself to promoting the concept locally.
“You paint them and hide them for others to find, and if you find one, you keep it or re-hide it for someone else.
“It’s a way of spreading a little bit of joy in the community because, as Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world’.”
Ashley was inspired to bring the idea to Knysna after a childhood friend, Greta Barber, created a similar group - Tas Rocks - for the community in which she now lives in Tasmania.
Knysna Rocks attracted nearly 700 members in the first week of its existence.
“I moved to Knysna from a busy corporate life in Cape Town because I wanted to enjoy the beauty and the lifestyle here, and I certainly haven’t been disappointed,” says Ashley.
“But the fires were a traumatic wake up call for all of us - and even though most of the talk now is about rebuilding, it’s sometimes also quite depressing.
“Knysna Rocks is a way of distracting ourselves from that.
“It’s about families enjoying each other, and spending time outside in nature - which is what Knysna’s all about.
“And since I have a background in the arts, I know that creativity cures.
“Being able to express ourselves positively and uniquely, and being able to recognise that same creative and optimistic spirit in others, is healing,” she says.
Ashley explains the rules of the game are simple: “Paint a rock, and drop it off in a public place for someone else to find - and if you find a painted rock, keep it to cheer yourself up, or re-hide it for someone else.
“But just keep posting whatever you do with the rocks on the Facebook group so that everyone can share the love,” she says.
“That way the creativity and the spirit of solidarity and fun will just keep on increasing exponentially.”
Find Knysna Rocks on Facebook - gets you there.
• Visit to find out more about the Plett Rocks group.