A grieving South African woman has discovered an artistic way to channel her loss, and now her whimsical creations are spreading joy throughout the world.
Somerset West, South Africa – The 19th of April 2017 is scored on Terry Swart’s heart as the worst day of her life. On that date, her twenty-six-year-old brother, Robert McEwan, passed away from cancer.
Robbie, as his family still affectionately calls him, was the youngest of three and the only son. Losing him to Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma devastated the close-knit McEwan clan.
Despite being four years older than Robbie, Terry (32) shared an especially strong bond with her brother. For about a year and a half after his death, she drowned in sorrow.
Then, last October, the Somerset West resident found an unusual outlet for her grief and a cheerful way to pay tribute to her beloved brother. She began painting small rocks to resemble minions, those adorable animated characters from the Despicable Me movie franchise.
Called “RobRocks”, each of the minion stones contains a message at the back, written by Terry, in which she encourages the finder of the rock to take it on adventures and to post photos of it to social media using the hashtag “RobRocks”. The final instruction is that the stone should then be hidden somewhere new, to “help me travel near and far”.
Those who have been fortunate enough to happen upon RobRocks have heeded Terry’s request in a major way, and the project has taken off beyond her wildest dreams. The result is that these photogenic, smiling little stones can now be found all over the world. In one of the photographs posted to the RobRocks Instagram account, a minion rock can be seen “posing” inside the Tower of London, the view of London Bridge and the Thames vanishing into the wintry fog below.
In far-flung Nepal, where the towering Himalayas are wreathed in mist and mystery, another stone is held up in front of a line of colourful Tibetan prayer flags. One recently appeared in Tokyo, surrounded by cherry blossoms frothing with spring blossoms, while yet another encountered a sprinkling of late spring snow in Alberta, Canada.
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🌿James Bond Island!🌿 RobRock Watson got to be James Bond for the day, baby!!! 😎🤓😎 Yes he did!!!! Thanks to @karswatson and her gang 😁 Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu have been known and named as the James Bond Island since 1974, when the ‘Man with the Golden Gun’ was filmed there, and we’re good with that! 😁 Before the filming it was a barely visited indigenous area, however after the release of the James Bond movie it became a very popular tourist destination! It has now become part of the Ao Phang Nga Marine National Park area and since 1998 it was forbidden that any boats approach Ko Ta Pu to stop further erosion of the limestone rocks near the Islets. We think that Rock Rights matter and are very important, so we are well pleased that the people have taken measures to keep this amazing Islets around hopefully for many many generations to come! 😎😎😎 Thank you for the most amazing pics Karen!!!!! We are just thrilled to bits at these 🤩😍🤩 Love and limestone light xxx Terry #RobRocks #travelforrob #jamesbondisland #thailand #travelthailand #rocksmatter #awesomepeeps #amazingdestinations #lymphomaawareness #lymphoma #todayisagiftnotagiven #gratitude
Terry says she chose to turn the RobRocks into minions, because Robbie himself was a qualified animator and wildly talented artist in various media. When their mother Lyndsay McEwan began baking cakes professionally, Robbie taught himself to sculpt the most intricate fondant icing figures – including scores of cheeky minions – to decorate the confections.
“The minions really resonated with Rob’s quirky personality. He was our real-life cartoon character,” she explains. “And because he had made so many for Mom’s cakes just made it seem like the perfect thing to represent him. The minions are super mischievous like Robbie was and they are universally recognisable.”
Although RobRocks are mainly meant to spread joy and kindness, Terry also aims to create awareness around Lymphoma. According to her, the type of cancer that took Robbie’s life is highly treatable when detected early enough.
Dr Irene Hitchin, a radiation oncologist from Stellenbosch, confirms this.
“The prognosis for Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is good. Most patients will be cured, depending on the extent of the disease at the time the diagnosis is made.”
She says that some early symptoms to watch out for are painless swelling in the neck, fever, night sweats and weight loss. “Sometimes a mass in the chest can also cause coughing and shortness of breath.”
Terry’s other goal is to have RobRocks in as many parts of the world as possible. Each one takes her days to paint.
“It begins with three layers of white paint; then I add three layers of yellow and two layers of blue for the dungarees that they all wear.” Only after letting the paint dry can she start the detail of their faces, which takes her about fifty minutes to an hour to complete. That must dry overnight, then Terry adds five layers of varnish, giving each RobRock a protective, glossy sheen. “It’s an absolute labour of love that I adore getting lost in,” she says.
To date, Terry has created more than three hundred RobRocks and counting. Therefore, no matter where you are in the world, keep your eyes peeled. You never know, you might just become the next lucky custodian to a special RobRocks!
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