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African Ark: People and Ancient Cultures of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa Hardcover – September 1, 1990

4.8 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two talented photographers focus on the Horn of Africa--an "ark" that shelters an astonishing variety of landscapes and human societies. Starting with the Christian Amharas of Lalibela and Axum and the Falashas of Lake Tana, they complete an arc that takes them to the seacoast of Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, as far south as Lamu in Kenya, and finally to the remote peoples of the Southeast who still engage in stick fighting, body painting, scarification and the wearing of lip plates. Other handsome peoples they depict include the desert-dwelling Afar, Beja and Rashaida, the Somali nomads of Ogaden and the ecstatic Oromo (formerly Galla) pilgrims of the Bale Mountains. As in Beckwith and Fisher's previous, award-winning books ( Maasai and Nomads of the Niger ), their magnificent color photos (240 of them here) are the glory of this beautifully designed volume. Hancock's ( Ethiopia ) useful if uninspired text covers indigenous societies, cultures, crafts, religions, sacred places, dances, and cycles of life and death.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Beckwith and Fisher's visually stunning pictorials of African cultures (they have worked separately on earlier books about the Masai and Fulani) combine beautiful photos of people and objects with easy-to-read explanatory texts sprinkled with charming line drawings. Joining forces here, with the literary assistance of journalist Hancock, they focus on probably the least understood and most "exotic" African region. Each chapter covers a different people among Ethiopia's remarkably diverse cultures: Coptic Christians, Falasha Jews, Somali Moslems, and traditional animists. Lacking an index and extensive bibliography, the book's value as a research tool is limited, yet as visual documentation of little-known cultures and art forms it is strongly recommended.
- Eugene C. Burt, Seattle
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (September 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810919028
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810919020
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 1.2 x 14.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #887,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
After seeing this book in the hands of friends, I am glad to finally have it in my special book collections. In this book photographers Beckwith and Fisher have truely captured the fierce, exotic, and natural beauty of the people of Ethiopia and the surrounding area. Indeed, Hancock covers the history of this mystic land dating back to early pre-christian era. Anyone with a sincere interest to learn the people and cultures of Ethiopia should have this amazing book in their possession!
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By A Customer on March 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A friend lent me this book some years ago and I immediately bought a copy. It is not a cheap book, but if I had a dollar for every time a visitor got lost in it, it would have been paid for many times over.
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Format: Hardcover
A land now wracked by famine and war, the region of Ethiopia and the surrounding countries which make up the Horn of Africa, have a rich and diverse cultural history. The coastal areas have been in close contact with the outside world for centuries, linked by trade with Arabia, China and India. Ethiopia itself is situated in more remote highlands and has enjoyed protection from foreign influences, for an even longer time. The are archaic forms of Christianity and Judaism, pastoralist groups, hunter-gatherers and farmers and they have lived undisturbed for hundreds of years. Until the twentieth century, Ethiopia was the only African country to have successfully avoided Western imperialism.
And here is a book of superb photographs of the land and its different peoples by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher. The text by Graham Hancock is unusually helpful giving the historical background so necessary to take in these startling photos. A wonderful book, beautifully designed, published by Abrams, it is well worth its published price of $75.00 to anyone interested in Africa.
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Format: Hardcover
"Recording the Past, Supporting the Future", while Ruining the Present. Please do not buy this book. These two photographers are extremely unethical. I've seen them work during a festival in Burkina Faso and it was a disgrace for Western civilization. The aura of absolute entitlement was around Bekwith&Fisher during the multi-day festival as they stood/sat within less than a foot of the performers, covering the performance from all the locals (of which there were thousands and who were much further from the performance at the places designated for spectators). This was equivalent of someone climbing on the stage of the theater performance and standing right in front of the actors the whole duration of the performance. I talked to the organizers and they were upset with such behavior, but their hospitality didn't allow them to ask these women to be respectful. The cost of you being able to see moments of foreign culture are pretty steep here. The cost is ruining the same moments (except that they mean a lot more) for the people of that culture.
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Format: Hardcover
As a repeat visitor to beautiful Ethiopia, and a pretty darn good photographer, the last thing I want my friends to do is to pick up this book before they see MY pictures. My best ones are drab next to this fabulous work of Fisher and Beckwith. So many books on Ethiopia cover either just the north, with it's religious architecture and history, or just the south with its beautiful tribal people only recently touched by the encroachment of modernity. But this book covers it all, and stunningly so. If you can afford only one book of glorious photography on tribal Africa, make it this one. There is a reason for the consistent 5-star ratings.

(Later note: two newer books by different authors/photographers focus just on the tribal areas of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia. If that's your interest, then also check out Gianni Giansanti's "Vanishing Africa" and Hans Silvester's "Ethiopia - Peoples of the Omo Valley.")
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Format: Hardcover
I had this book for a long time and everybody who looks at it cant let go.Great pictures.As an Ethiopian it makes me feel great to show people my country and my history. Elsabeth
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Format: Hardcover
This work of art in nothing less than excellent!!
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Format: Hardcover
This is an incredibly lovely book that shows the various groups of people that make up Ethiopia. A must read, that's informative, educational and thoroughly enjoyable.
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