Visit Knysna, Knysna Tourism, Garden Route, South Africa

Brenton-on-Sea’s butterfly inspires Knysna’s metamorphosis

Visitors to Brenton-on-Sea, Knysna, won’t be able to miss the creative transformation that’s taking place in this small seaside hamlet – all at the hands of a small group of committed community members and the #knysnaartproject.

Part of the Western Head & Goukamma Conservancy, and perched on the dunes overlooking a 5.5km-long stretch of pristine white beach towards Buffalo Bay, Brenton-on-Sea plays host to some of the most extravagant sunsets in the world. It is also home to the tiny Brenton Blue Butterfly, one of the rarest butterflies on earth and a National Treasure.

The newly unveiled Wall of Wings now reaffirms this rare resident’s place at the heart of this community and also is one of the “Knysna 5” truly unique, natural attractions, alongside the Knysna Loerie, Knysna Seahorse, Knysna Dwarf Chameleon and the Knysna Leaf-folding Frog. Mounted onto mottled blue tiles that mirror the fluid ocean backdrop and memorialise the distinctive hue of the male Brenton Blue, a giant stainless steel butterfly has its wings spread wide in welcome to visitors.

The Wall of Wings is a collaboration between local artist Helena Gerber, Debbie Young and Dave McRae of Knysna-based LaserWorx and Neels Groesbeek of Knysna Steelworx. Helena, who acted as Creative Director on the Wall of Wings, explained the inspiration behind the installation: “We knew from the start that we wanted a giant butterfly for Brenton-on-Sea. As artists – painters, sculptors, poets, writers – we often draw our inspiration from nature. Butterflies are symbols of beauty, freedom, transformation, mystery and appear in art everywhere – our spirits as human beings are instantly uplifted in their presence. The world would be a much poorer place without them.”

Debbie and Dave, whose laser cutting business was built on the back of developing iconic Knysna gifts and merchandising for the tourist trade, developed the design for the butterfly installation. A contemporary, stylised interpretation of the Brenton Blue, the design will now become the basis for a whole new LaserWorx range. Neels, who volunteered the support of his steelwork services to the #knysnaartproject in response to the initial call for proposals, provided the experience and expertise needed to engineer the creative idea into a 2m-tall steel sculpture that will endure against the elements for years to come. Local independent contractors Desmond Makellie (DesMark Construction) and Phillip Pieterse built and tiled the Wall, in itself a work of art. Together they have been working on projects in Brenton for more than 15 years.

The Brenton Blue Butterfly is close to the hearts of residents. More so since the Brenton Blue Butterfly Reserve was obliterated in the 2017 fires. This small area was the only home of the Brenton Blue and for a long time after the fires there were fears that the species had become extinct. The discovery of dormant larvae deep in the soil however led to an ongoing project to rehabilitate the reserve and re-establish the Brenton Blue Butterfly in its natural habitat initiated by the Brenton Blue Trust. Funding is always a barrier to progress and it is hoped that the Wall of Wings will ignite interest in the conservation of the Brenton Blue and inspire support and donations for the Trust and ongoing efforts to prevent the butterfly’s extinction.

The creation of the Wall of Wings at Brenton-on-Sea, as with the other #knysnaartproject installations underway, inspired broader collaboration with community members to transform the public spaces around the beachfront and the rest of Brenton-on-Sea with colourful mosaics. According to Judy Harrison, Chairperson of the Brenton-on-Sea Ratepayers Association and coordinator of the community mosaic project, the #knysnaartproject butterfly added some momentum to an initiative already underway to brighten up Brenton with new benches, tables and bins sponsored and mosaiced by residents. “When the organisers of the #knysnaartproject came to us with their plans for the Wall of Wings we set our hearts and souls on transforming the walls of the set of stairs at the top of the descent to the beach into a canvas of colour”. A core team of 12 mosaicers, with the adhoc support of other residents, visiting children, and staff of the adjacent Brenton Haven Hotel, spent a combined total of 175 hours on the stunning mosaic murals that now line the steps to the beach.

Colleen Durant, GM of Visit Knysna (the greater Knysna area’s Destination Marketing Organisation), was visibly excited by the first of the #knysnaartproject installations to be officially unveiled. “A single line item on Greater Knysna’s Destination Management Plan has sparked a regeneration project of a size and scale beyond our expectations and imaginings. Communities have been inspired to action – they want to be part of the solution when it comes to reclaiming Knysna’s reputation as a hub of art and creativity.”

In a world where selfies and that perfect Instagram moment is now the most popular way of sharing photos and experiences worldwide, the #KnysnaArtProject is encouraging visitors to Greater Knysna to branch out, explore and discover everything the area has to offer by creating a series of unique photo opportunities. The initiative is an ambitious and exciting collaboration between Visit Knysna (the greater Knysna area’s destination marketing organisation), the Knysna Municipality and the Knysna Art Society.

The Brenton-on-Sea beachfront is one of six iconic sites in greater Knysna area identified for public art placements in phase one of the project. A 2.2m statue of a Rastafari priest is about to take centre stage at Judah Square in Concordia, and a full-size, fully mosaiced vintage VW beetle will soon be unveiled alongside the estuary in Sedgefield. A giant nautilus sculpted from stainless steel and indigenous wood will grace the SANParks waterfront on Thesen Island, and in Buffalo Bay a “boardwalk” of surfboards painted by local artists is building the town’s reputation as a prime surfing destination. Knysna’s central business district will be cheered with the Knysna in Bloom flowerpots being turned into creative canvases for contributing artists.

Cheeky Knysna Oyster Festival “Limited Edition” campaign yields successful results

The tongue in cheek ‘Why #WFH (work from home) when you can #WFK (work from Knysna)?’ marketing campaign saw the return of seasoned festival goers alongside fresh faced first timers, with the re-imagined ‘Limited Edition’ yielding successful results in the face of the COVID-19 third wave.

With the campaign tagline ‘Stay, Work, Play’ – consumers were enticed to stay the full ten days due to being able to work with fully enabled WiFi and play by curating their own programme by selecting from unique experience available on the ‘Limited Edition’ programme. The predominantly digitally-driven campaign was supported by a paid-for PR component – targeting key domestic markets in Gauteng, Western Cape and the Eastern Cape – with Gauteng removed following the travel restriction imposed in late June.

Kicking off with the ‘awareness phase’, followed by the ‘consideration phase’ – the campaign saw 2.4 million unique users engaging with the content, with the majority of these users being based in Gauteng. Gauteng has always been a key domestic tourism market for the Western Cape, and the high engagement from the province shows the eagerness of Gauteng visitors to come and explore the Garden Route.

“This year we had a real opportunity to tap into a current truth: if you’re working from home, you could be working from anywhere,” explains Visit Knysna General Manager, Colleen Durant. “The Knysna Oyster Festival ‘Limited Edition’ proved to be the perfect antidote to the level 3 restrictions – allowing families to re-imagine their July winter getaway, re-connect with their family unit, and re-discover the beauty of the Garden Route through a select COVID-19 friendly programme,” she adds.

Reflecting on the curveball thrown by the announcement of the move to Alert Level 4, Festival Co-Ordinator, Andrew Finn, comments: “This year’s event organising was not without its challenges, but thanks to the committee already putting together a COVID- friendly event at the heart of the planning, we were able to seamlessly adapt the progamme to provide a ‘Limited Edition’ offering; it even saw us tapping into popular gaming trends through the introduction of the Knysna eSports Cup Challenge, featuring the popular video game Fortnite with teams from South Africa and neighbouring countries taking part.”

As this was the first time the programme was introducing an eSport, only 600 participants could be accommodated. However, the demand for participation was huge, showing a new category of experiences to be included in future programmes.
The semi-final and final rounds of this inaugural event was livestreamed from Knysna. South Africa’s youngest professional Fortnite player RoMike and his team participated live from Knysna, and the finals gained over 1 700 views from across the globe on YouTube.

Main sporting drawcards adjusted their formats, but runners could still run and cyclists pedal at their own leisure, tracking their performance via the Rouvy app.
“With three routes available on the Rouvy app, we received over 3 000 entries, with more than 2 000 active riders taking part in the virtual cycle tour – many of these being internationals, and 180 cyclists participating in the live virtual race held on Saturday 17 July.

Similarly, the Virtual Knysna Forest Marathon invited runners of all capabilities to tackle one of three route options: the traditional forest route of the marathon and half marathon routes from The Farm; or a flat route option leading competitors around a scenic tour of the town,” added Finn.

Offering flexibility, the events could be completed over the 10 days of the festival, with many locals and visitors taking part.

Knysna Executive Mayor, Elrick van Aswegen, thanked the organisers for their efforts saying, “It takes hard work, agility and dedication to pivot an event of this scale at the last minute. It is testament to the organisers’ dedication, community involvement and, more importantly, Knysna’s natural allure that the festival still drew great numbers of holiday makers and day trippers, offering them wonderful family outings, entertainment and activities.”

“The Knysna Oyster Festival has yet again shown its agility and resilience in the face of adversity. We are thrilled with the successful results of the marketing campaign, and the positive uptake from the public to the “Limited Edition” format. With the programme expanding to include new features such as eSports, we hope to see the popularity of the iconic festival grow, and welcome back old and new faces to the quaint seaside village at the Knysna Oyster Festival 2022,” concluded Acting CEO, Yaw Peprah.

Dates for the 2022 Knysna Oyster Festival are yet to be confirmed. Please visit for updates and information.

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