After having received an award for reviving the Rieldans, Elias P. Nel of Kraaifontein, is now focused on research for a book that he is writing about the Riel. Having spent the past 11 years focusing on saving the Riel from disappearing, he is now determined to build a complete history of the Riel.
“Since we started with the Riel, my dream has always been that the true history of the dance must be recorded. So much of the history has been lost over the centuries or just never written down. In my research I found that there were very few pictures of people who Riel and it’s sad. With this book I would like to start with the ‘Oerdans’, through to the early years of the last century until now, and moving up to the farm workers and the ‘karretjie-mense’, “said Elias.
One of the challenges Elias experienced in his research is that many people who have the historical knowledge of the Riel have already died. “The oldest auntie I have spoken to recently is 74. She could help me with a lot of information, but much of the information is lost with the deceased. There is for example, only one guy in Loeriesfontein that does the ‘bobbejaandans’, “said Elias.
To do his research, Elias must travel to remote areas in the Northern and Western Cape, but this is where he gets his best information.
“I heard from childhood of the great song, but could never really figure out what it was. It is only recently that I heard about how it works in those years. On the big day (December holidays), the people danced throughout the night. For the first part of the evening they did the ‘platriel’, which is a fast version of Riel. At some point in the evening they started dancing on the big song. This is not really a song, but rather an instrumental piece of music that is slower than the platriel. The dance, also known as the ‘langriel’ or ‘bokdans’, is danced with one’s hands behind your back and the dance continues till daybreak, “said Elias.
According to him, as more people become aware of the Riel, there is more enquiries about where to get training to learn it. “With the growth of the Riel we are in danger of completely losing it’s purity. External dance influences can easily cause the Riel damage, so you must be vigilant. Over the years, various influences have crept in. The ‘jakkalsdans’ is perhaps derived from the folk performances.”
Elias said he cannot predict how popular the Riel will become, but looking at the inquiries from people who want to get involved, there will be lots of growth. “We get requests for training around from everywhere and across many cultures. This shows us that the Riel will not become extinct anytime soon.
Source: Netwerk24 (Translated and Edited from an article written by Brenden Ruiter)