Yes you clan: ad watchdog cans milk stout complaint
Putting clan names on beer cans isn't an insult to ancestors since booze is part of African cultural practice anyway, it rules
Would the ancestors approve?
Poet and actress Lebo Mashile, who is one of six prominent cultural activists who have lent their clan names to the contentious Castle Milk Stout campaign, doesn’t see why not.
Castle Milk Stout, which released six clan names on its limited-edition 500ml cans, sought the advice of cultural experts before it embarked on the clan name campaign, in a bid to do its bit for cultural preservation.
But it has already left a bitter taste in Yoliswa Matu’s mouth in particular, who reported the campaign to the Advertising Standards Authority of SA, claiming it was offensive and disrespectful to use something sacred as a marketing tool for alcohol.
The authority dismissed the claim, saying: “There is no disrespect inherent in this execution and no reflection made on the practice of respecting ancestors.”
As part of its ruling, the authority said: “Even for those who do associate clan names with the spiritual respect due to ancestors, alcohol is not forbidden by these practices.”
The authority referred to author Dr Kimani Nehusi’s book Libation – An African Ritual of Heritage in the Circle of Life, which spoke about “a drink offering [including alcohol] to honour and please the creator, the lesser divinities, our sacred ancestors ...
“It is clear ... that alcohol has been part and parcel of celebrating the African cultural practices. The use of the clan names, if one accepts that they allude to ancestors, on alcohol is not, therefore, similar to the use of religious names from a religion that forbids alcohol,” said the authority in its ruling.
Mashile is among the six prominent cultural activists who have rallied behind the campaign, who also include praise singer Zolani Mkiva, actor Pallance Dladla, musician Stoan Seate, traditional healer Gogo Mayo and radio personality Ntombee Ngcobo Mzolo.
Although initially reluctant to be part of the campaign because of the association with alcohol, Mashile now finds it to be affirming.
“I walked into this space apprehensive and scared, but I then found it incredibly affirming. My parents were divorced. I didn’t know my clan names. I had to go to my aunts. This helped me get in touch with my roots.
“To see Castle Milk Stout choosing to make our names visible in this way is moving. This is the liquid that we use for libation when we do talk to our ancestors, among other kinds of alcohol. Milk Stout is there along with the traditional beers; it has its place.
“Castle Milk Stout has taken a bold step in affirming African identity, which has not been done before.
“I do understand where the complainant is coming from ... but I hope she understands the amount of care and research that has gone into this campaign,” Mashile added.
Sifiso Pule, Castle Milk Stout connections manager, said: “The campaign does not refer to clan praise names in general and was developed in collaboration with specific individuals and prominent local personalities who gave the brand permission to use their unique clan names.
“This was carried out with the deepest respect afforded to African cultures,” Pule added.