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Bloedrivier ("Blood River", or "the river of blood") can be a reference to the physical river in Kwa-Zulu-Natal, to a historical event that rtook place on the river (and give it its name), or to a number of works bearing the title about or referring to the event.

The historical event

Bloedrivier (English: Blood River) is the most commonly found reference to the seminal Slag van Bloedrivier (i.e. the Battle of Blood River[1]) of 1838, in which the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and his Boer fighters fought off and conquered the Zulu forces ("impis") of Dingaan (or Dingane).

Commemoration of the event and its cultural impact

The victory is commemorated annually on the 16th of December, a public holiday long known as Geloftedag (the Day of the Vow or the Day of the Covenant), and this became one of the cornerstones of the nationalist philosophy which underpinned the rise of the Afrikaner and dreams of the Afrikaner state.

It is interesting that during the negotiations leading to the new South Africa under Nelson Mandela, one of the concessions made was not only to keep the day as a important national holiday, but to utilize it as a means of reconciliation between all the peoples of the country. Therefore it was renamed the Day of Reconciliation and is still celebrated, each after their own fashion.

Numerous works of fact and fiction have been produced about the battle and the vow, and the story has attained mythical and symbolic value in the history of the Afrikaner community.


Dramatic works using Bloedrivier as title

Bloedrivier ("Blood River"), a one act documentary drama by J.R.L. van Bruggen (1895-1948)

The original text

Dealing with the so-called Battle of Blood River[2] between the Voortrekkers[3] and the Zulu impi's of Dingane, it forms part of a collection of Afrikaans one-act documentary plays by Van Bruggen entitled Bakens: Gedramatiseerde mylpale uit die Groot Trek, aimed at commemorating the Great Trek of 1839. (Published in Johannesburg in 1938/9 by A.P.B., some of the plays performed in 1938)


Marisa Keuris. 2013. "J.R.L. van Bruggen (Kleinjan) se eenbedryf "Bloedrivier" uit Bakens : gedramatiseerde mylpale uit die Groot Trek (1938/1939) - 'n terugblik vanuit 2013", LitNet Akademies 10(3): pp.629-650.[4]

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