This entertainment is the ceremonial or festive taking of alcoholic drinks at events called "beer parties." Researchers noted the significance of the festive element of work among the laborers but showed beer as an essential aspect of work. The rule in these beer work parties are adjusted to the particular workers involved. It invokes the overall value and morality of helpfulness and reciprocity, which are part of beer-drinking events. It is an expression of a general interdependence between homesteads. Ordinary beer parties emphasize the general principle of mutual helpfulness and mutual relationships in homesteads. But beer parties for harvest give thanks to ancestors for the homestead's harvest. These parties give recognition to those who plow the homestead's garden (McAllister).
A recent analyzed the relation between cooperative work and beer drinking. It found that beer drinks served as a contact point of everyday activity and ideas in the Xhosa society in Transkei (McAllister 2004). It taught that the people of Transkei viewed cooperative work as covering history, political economy and local cultural characteristics. Production, building the homestead and identity were embodied in the distribution of goods produced and in consumption. This was the relationship between work and beer. How labor was mobilized to the end stage of consumption of the product of labor showed the orderly procedure of social life among the Xhosa people in Transkei. Beer drinking was a composite of a wide process of distribution with maize as raw material. Labor and beer were part of a single local system (McAllister).
Creativity in Ceramics
Xhosa-speaking ceramic artists from the Eastern Cape practiced their craft to reflect their experience and express their thoughts about aspects of their cultural heritage in contemporary South Africa (Dase et al. 2007). Their work revealed a yearning for lost roots. As part of today's society, they recognized they could not bring back the hands of time. It was their way of redressing past misunderstandings, misrepresentations and marginalization, which occurred in their country. The artists perceived the oppression of the apartheid and colonization as a negative occurrence in their country and among their people. As independent individuals, they used the art as a shared language. It was to them the foundation of closeness among collective abstractions of African or Xhosa-speaking South Africans. It involved bringing together their individual local experiences and presenting these to audiences by blending artwork and text. Visual art was a cornerstone of their cultural heritage, which recorded and understood aspects of their continuously changing identity as a people. They used clay to express their deep past (Dase et al.).
Their chief medium was raw earth, which they pounded and added water to achieve the correct consistency and to shape ideas (Dase et al. 1007). Air dried the works. They added coloring agents and then displayed finished work in public places for use and to elicit comments and other reactions. The elements of earth, water, wind and fire were their creative vehicle in expressing urges vital for the past as for the present. Their present endeavor was to actively trace and comment on the important aspects of their lives both as Xhosa-speakers and inhabitants of the world. Their goal was to explore the different aspects of their culture and construct them in a global context. The Xhosa artists felt that doing this provided them with the opportunity to share in the collective experience. Through their art, they contributed to social changes, however negligible, in the transformation of South Africa. It enabled them to express their own experience without imposing ideology. The artists realized that these ideas sounded big but did not make it easier to live within the current harsh environment they found themselves in. They still had to contend with daily realities, such as poverty, homelessness, unemployment, crime, unequal access to quality education and medical care, and the lack of basic services, such as clean water and sanitation. These were neither imaginary nor distant problems they confronted with their art and in their lives (Dase et al.).
This is another aspect of their creative culture. Their choice of color and composition produced subtle combinations like a blue rectangle or a red brushstroke (Van Wyk 2003). It could suggest that globalization is fading away. The subtlety required a deeper sensitivity to decode the meaning within the work. It could conjure repetitive sounds or a meditational chant in the spiritual realm. Beadwork among the Xhosa tribe was a kind of religious art (Van Wyk).
Beadwork among the Xhosa people symbolizes a sense of belonging to one another, to their place or tradition (Van Wyk 2003). They signified identity and ethnic or regional roots through which moments of history could be understood. It was also spiritual art. Tradition forbade them to create images of living things. So they resorted to abstract forms and beadwork as alternative. The works were full of color. It was their way of proclaiming another Africa in the abstract, of light and giving representation to women's work. It is the primary sacred art form for the Xhosa, which calls for recognition as such and within the context of African art. Beadwork designs allow social identities to be read. It is a specific means of self-expression, revealing individual styles of the creator and the one who wears the beads. And beadwork colors, patterns and motifs illustrate the function of language (Van Wyk).
Musicality is more than strong in the African community: it is a fact of life (Cornwell 2004). Church music gave the people a specific means of expressing their sadness and frustration over the apartheid system. And when democracy was won, music was much sweeter to them. At all other times, music has been the hearts of the Xhosa, as well as the Zulu and Sotho, people, who have been singing all their lives. Many styles of singing have evolved in direct response to oppression and suffering. Township music about the evil of the apartheid system produced hits like the Nelson Mandela-inspired "Bring Him Back Home." Their sounds also reflected the resilience of the people. It was about the need for vigilance. Ten years after the victory of the African National Congress, the Xhosa people did not know how to translate the meaning of freedom. They felt very bitter about their experience of separation and the lowering of their self-esteem. The impact would stay on for a long time and reveal itself in their singing (Cornwell).
The Xhosa people were a historically oppressed race by the apartheid system. The inhumane-ness of the system was graphically demonstrated by the struggles and extreme miseries of its heroic leaders Nelson and Winnie Mandela and the people themselves duped into starvation in 1856. Yet they are a people with their own distinct and rich culture. The Xhosa people cherish their own identity as a race, language, customs, clothing, religion, marriage observances and cultural practices. These cultural practices reveal that identity, the experience of oppression and aspirations, which cannot and should not be ignored. Their value of work includes rewarding themselves for their labor through beer parties, a form of socialization. The wounds of oppression and misery find their way into art forms, such as ceramics, beadwork and song. A race, which produced heroes like Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and turns out excellent and deeply meaningful art works, deserves recognition and appreciation from the rest of the world. Their creative talents should be strongly encouraged in achieving their own aspirations as a distinct and valued people.
CESA. The Xhosa. People Profile. Central Eastern Southern Africa, 2008. Retrieved on May 8, 2008 at http://cesa.imb.org/peoplegroups/xhosa.htm
Christian Action. The National Suicide of the Xhosa. Vol 2. The Christian Action
Cornwell, Jane. Sweet Sounds of Freedom. The (London) Independent: Independent
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Dase, Gcinikhaya, et al. Cultural Heritage in the Work of Two Xhosa-Speaking Ceramic
Artists. African Arts: The Regents of the University of California, 2007