In the spirit of celebrating South Africa’s diversity, one of South Africa’s oldest indigenous dance styles will be on display at the Cape Town Carnival.
The Kingdom Connected Campers (KCC) from Richmond in the central Karoo, which uses dance to develop youth talent, will be performing riel at the Cape Town Carnival taking place on Human Rights Day, 21 March, on Green Point’s Fan Walk.
An age-old dance style originally performed by Khoisan hunters, one of the first peoples to inhabit Southern Africa, riel is a celebratory form of dance usually performed around a campfire after hunting expeditions, or following a good harvest when farm labourers or sheep shearers come home from work.
Set to the beat of boeremusiek, riel employs fancy footwork that kicks up a lot of dust.
Thys Bouwers, founder/director of the Northern-Cape non-profit youth organisation, says,
“We formed KCC in 2017 to address crime among our youth in our little town. As in so many farming communities, poverty leading to crime is a major issue affecting poorer families and youth who are trying to survive.”
Richmond, a farming town just off the N1 highway between Beaufort West and Colesburg, is far removed from the commercial, well-resourced cities of South Africa, and is bearing the brunt of the worst drought in more than a century.
“Dance, and in our case, riel, has given youth a reason to believe that there’s more to life than the incredible hardships they experience, and it provides a temporary reprieve from their harsh realities, giving them a sense of pride and purpose.”
A Celebration of Ancient Traditions
Many indigenous Northern Cape tribes, such as the ancient San, Khoi and Nama, of whom many Afrikaans-speaking coloured Northern Cape people are descendants, perform riel with a sense of pride.
The dance, regarded as a highly prized part of their heritage, is a true celebration of ancient traditions that finds new expression in contemporary forms.
The KCC dancers will put their best feet forward in the “Dance! Energy in Motion” performance pod, a celebration of South Africa’s dance styles which includes, along with riel, gumboot dancing by Phatizwelethu, Masizakhe, Masi Creative Hub and IthembaLabantu.
“To us, Carnival means working together, respecting other people and their cultures, and accepting each other for who and what we are,” says Bouwers. “Carnival will give us the exposure we need, and hopefully open up new opportunities for us to develop the youngsters further.”