200 Year Old Legacy Built By Dreamers - in conversation with Rial Visagie
Images by Tarien Bruwer
Inspired by the legacy of 200 years of dreamers, Rial Visagie founder of Rialheim and custodian of Clairvaux Estate shares his dreams and hopes for the future in this intimate interview. In this exclusive in-depth discussion with Rial, the current dreamer that resides on the beautiful property in Robertson. He shares his values and beliefs, as galvanised thoughts of existence, and carried on the chests of his forefathers.
Rial your beautiful estate has been passed down to you by your forefathers, what do you think they would say to you today to keep Clairvaux Estate the home of dreamers?
You know I have always fantasised about the idea that somewhere in the 200 years before me, my forefathers had initiated a plan for this to become my destiny. When I arrived on the farm as an adult some nine years ago, I was taken aback by the layout of the one building which is now the Rialheim studio, it was almost perfectly laid out to become what it is today, with minimal renovations needed. So that idea and feeling that this is exactly where I should be, has been with me for some time. It is also very important for me to add the fact that we chose the name Rialheim to honour my forefathers in a tribute if you will, for the opportunities they afforded me in the name of their legacy.
There is some what of a responsibility that you’ve been given to honour your family and their dreams, how are you going to keep their dreams and yours alive for the next 200 years?
I believe it is a responsibility that I have embraced, it was never forced upon me. There is however, a level of accountability in that I need to make sure that my family is honoured in everything I do, every project I take on. I strongly believe that it is now my responsibility and of every generation to come, to keep the legacy alive and to build on it. I don’t think I can dictate what the generations after me will do or what their challenges will be. However, I’m very much aware of my challenges at the moment with Clairvaux Estate and obviously one of my goals is to lay the foundation for the next generation to follow their dreams.
I would also like to mention the social responsibility the keeper of the farm has, I think I need to try my best to improve the community as much as I can, within my capabilities. It’s not about the land or status, it’s all about the values my family pursued and instilled in me. I feel this is where my responsibility truly lies. These values include love, love for your neighbour, compassion and most importantly actioning these values and improving the quality of life of those around you. I think it’s the values that really make a farm like Clairvaux special because not only are our dreams expressed but we facilitate the dreams of others too. Often people speak of the beauty of the estate, but for me the beauty of the estate lies in the legacy of love and that’s what makes it beautiful for me.
On that note of love, Daniel your forever person, now we know he is very much a city boy, tell us a bit about his experience of the farm?
I can honestly say the greatest gift I have ever been given, is the gift of unconditional love. Daniel has been by my side through the thickest and most dire situations, as well as the best and most memorable adventures. He truly is my heart of hearts.
On a slightly lighter note I must tell you the funniest memories I have of Daniel’s first visits to the farm. This city boy through and through is an absolute animal lover. The first time Daniel came to the farm he was chased by a dog and for him, as a dog lover was mortified. Then as we were walking the fields and I was showing him the sheep, the one came up to him and kept bumping into him with his head, as though to test his patience. He was completely freaked out by the size of the tongue and he couldn’t resist visualising the sheep swallowing his arm. The funniest moment of all though, was when an ostrich chased him. Just picture this scene, one moment Daniel was taking a stroll beside me and the next I just hear screaming, as I turn my head I see Daniel running full speed with this ostrich hot on his tail. Ah bless, it was hilarious. Needless to say it took Daniel some time to adjust to farm life.
We would love for you to share your fondest childhood memories of growing up and visiting Clairvaux.
I would say some of my fondest memories are of collecting as many acorns as I could find beneath the majestic Acorn tree to feed the sheep. It used to be a dairy farm you see and there was nothing I enjoyed more than milking the cows and running through the Lucerne fields, imagining myself to be like Heidi, so wild and carefree. I remember my grandmothers cupboards filled with naartjies and biltong with an endless supply. I remember standing beside my gran in the kitchen and her showing us how to bake plaas brood, nothing more delicious. As a child the farm seemed a magical place, it stimulated my imagination and I learnt invaluable lessons about family and love.
Who in your family inspired you? Who shared their most invaluable wisdom with you, shaping your worldview?
I would say I have three relatives that shaped and moulded my ideas and ideals. I believe each generation layered the foundation of my existence. My mother being the first to shape the person I am today of course, has shown me the meaning of love, not through words but through her actions. She taught me that love for fellow human beings is important and so we had to help out at the orphanage from a very young age. A very humbling and insightful experience and this is what spurred my younger to self embrace a career in social work. Ah and my grandmother, a wise and compassionate woman would always say, “you only pass through this life at a specific point once and while you’re passing through that point, you can just as well do some good.” This profound statement really shaped my view of the world. Maria Kloppers, my great aunt was the first woman to acquire land and with the wealth she generated from this she opened an orphanage and her legacy lives on today. So these beautiful women in my life shaped my heart and view of this life.
What are your dreams for the future of Clairvaux Estate?
One of my biggest dreams for Clairvaux is for it to become fully sustainable. I want to reduce my footprint on this majestic continent and I just feel like the time has finally come to take an eco friendly approach. Another one of dreams is to build a bigger studio, where we can expand on the mediums we work in. So for me it’s really about actionable change that can benefit generations to come.
I just feel I need to add that none of my dreams could have been realised without the backing of our amazing team. Every time I come home I’m in awe of the love and dedication that we get from our team here. They continue to push when we are not here, they are then ones that walk the farm everyday and they are the ones who are dedicated to completing orders. Growing and uplifting my team is another one of my dreams. I want to provide a better life for them and their generations to come.
We know that Clairvaux Estate situated in the majestic Robertson is the birthplace of Rialheim, tell us how you would like future generations to carry on the legacy that you have built?
I would really like the next generation to build on their own dreams, they don’t have to follow in my footsteps. If anything I hope my legacy will live on through my forefathers and they will carry on, with us in mind and heart. I wish for them to be inspired by what me and our forefathers have done alongside our amazing teams. They need to fearlessly live their wildest dreams and live by their own truth.
Café Imagination situated at your retail store at Rand Steam in Johannesburg as another one of your ventures, where do you see it’s future going?
Café Imagination was inspired by the idea that we have the capability to shape our own reality and live in a world of our own creation, inspired by our dreams. In creating this we wanted to deliver a unique experience for visitors. With my dream of expanding our studio in Robertson I really want to bring Cafe Imagination home to create an immersive experience for all those who dare to dream and experience the wonders of Clairvaux Estate.
Having Clairvaux Estate as a holiday destination, Rialheim and Cafe Imagination all on the same 200 year old homestead will be quite the achievement, do you think your forefathers would be proud of how you’ve modernised the concept of the estate?
So there’s this family tale of how Clairvaux Estate was the first farm to generate electricity in Robertson. This made me realise that my forefathers were not afraid of change and were willing to make changes for the better. This in turn has given me the confidence to believe that my forefathers would be proud because with the state of the earth we need to do whatever we can to better the environment.
As the contemporary family dreamer, on an intimately personal level, tell us about your biggest dream, even if right now it may seem a little difficult to achieve?
As I’ve mentioned my main focus lies in going off the grid and expanding the studio. My biggest dream that’s currently in the pipeline is exploring and working in different mediums. This dream of course is very ambitious and is a completely new adventure and I’m reveling in the idea of exploring the endless possibilities and the inevitable evolution of Rialheim. So I am super excited about this.
What would you tell your 20 year old self to inspire him and his dreams?
I would tell him to never stop believing in his dreams because that is where you will find your greatest inspiration. I would say trust in the inspired thinking of your forefathers, specifically Maria Kloppers. She never stopped dreaming, always believed in her instincts and she allowed her beliefs to soar. Looking back now - dream, believe, fly was inspired before I even realised it.
What inspiring mantra do you live by these days?
I think I’ve survived on believing that everything will turn out how it should and being authentically myself has enabled me to live life to the fullest, overflowing with successes all different in measure.
This weekend we celebrate our founder and eternal dreamer, Rial Visagie's birthday. And as a gift to you, we're offering 15% off any Rialheim purchase from 27-31 May 2022, both in store and online. The discount code "DREAMER'S SALE" will automatically apply in your cart. Click here to shop now.