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African Ceremonies Hardcover – November 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0810942059 ISBN-10: 0810942054 Edition: Two Volume

Price: $50.00
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Hardcover, November 1, 1999
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 744 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Two Volume edition (November 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810942054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810942059
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 3 x 14.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 16 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #965,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

By a recent count, the continent of Africa comprises some 1,300 cultures. Some of them number millions of people, some only a few families; some are thriving, while others are in danger of disappearing, the victims of acculturation or, in extreme cases, of genocide. This diversity--and the dangers to it--is little known outside Africa. Photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher highlight both matters in African Ceremonies, an extraordinary two-volume collection of some 850 full-color images. The two artists have traveled to almost all the continent's 53 countries in the last three decades, documenting traditional tribal life in earlier books and articles for National Geographic, among other publications. Here they focus on the religious customs of several dozen peoples, combining stunning images with well-written essays to illustrate the enduring power of traditional beliefs.

Among the book's finest moments are a record of the Fulani cattle crossing, when for 10 days young males drive their herds across the wide Niger River to receive gifts from their grateful compatriots; a sequence showing a healing ceremony of the Himba people of Namibia and Angola, whose "wild women," possessed by lion spirits, are riveting actors on the page; and a remarkable series of photographs of Wodaabe courtship dancers, who compete to attract wives by charming them with exaggerated smiles and the skilled use of cosmetics. The authors note that, as women, they entered places men never could--and as foreigners, they were also often welcomed as "honorary males" and allowed to witness male-only ceremonies. Many of these rites are in danger of extinction as old ways are forgotten and in some cases suppressed. Beckwith and Fisher have captured them before it's too late. Beautifully designed and manufactured, African Ceremonies makes a fine companion to Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s Wonders of the African World, and invites leisurely reading--and constant revisiting. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

From the collaborative team behind four award-winning books on Africa (Africa Adorned; Maasai; Nomads of Niger; and African Ark) comes an outstanding two-volume survey of the continent's rituals, rites and ceremonies. Divided into six sectionsAbirth and initiation; courtship and marriage; royalty and power; seasonal rites; beliefs and worship; spirits and ancestorsAthe set documents 43 ceremonies in 26 countries. In addition to the more than 800 arresting color photographs, the text respectfully details each ceremony (including controversial ones, such as Maasai clitoridectomy). The authors lived with each of the groups they photographed; their bonds with their subjects are apparent in the images, which drive home the point that these ceremonies are simply conducted by ordinary people with different traditions than ours. Thus, young Taneka men dancing before a circumcision look nervous; Kassena mothers gaze lovingly at their babies as they are shaved during naming ceremonies; and Krobo girls preparing for coming-of-age dances look as cheerful as teenagers at a prom. Because masks, textiles, jewelry, sculptures and body painting often have a prominent role in rites, the books also highlight the diverse beauty of Africa's traditional arts. Ten years in the making, the volumes also represent an important anthropological achievementAsome of the rituals have never been seen by outsiders and many others are disappearing under the cumulative pressure of drought, famine, political upheaval and Western influence. 45 maps. BOMC selection; 8-city author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
It's heavy -- but a great addition to your collection of photo books or coffee table.
The New York Times Sunday Book Review section today had a wonderful review of this book (2 volumes in a slipcase).
Hayden M. Fink
My reaction was one of deep appreciation-- thank you, Beckwith and Fisher, for sharing your journey with us.
N. Ferguson R.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 99 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Beckwith and Fisher exceed their prior masterpieces with thistwo-volume collection of photographs and descriptions of traditionalceremonies. The diversity of settings, the splendor of styles and smiles, and the care and reverence they bring to this work speaks to their respect and faithfulness to the quest. The text is as clear as the customs are intriguing. The photographs capture the breadth of scenes and go to the details.
This is not the work of dilettantes or voyeurs, nor is it an exercise of academic minutiae, sensational reporting, or sentimental travel writing. AFRICAN CEREMONIES has been born of the drive in the human race to celebrate life and mystery, the wisdom of elders and officials who have granted access to private domains in a number of nations, and the hard work and devotion of two extraordinary women who have paid their dues in the field for decades.
There is something still missing, however, in their publishing odyssey. One can hope that they are hard at work on a volume to crown the splendor of their last six--a celebration of life in everyday terms. Who are better prepared to assemble visual albums of villages where there are no K-Marts? From cotton boll to blanket, palm nut to fragrant oil, log to canoe, their keen and practiced eyes can show us the process of lives much like our recent ancestors lived when they too cooked over open fires and chased birds from the fields before harvest.
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57 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth Braun on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I received African Ceremonies as a birthday present two months ago and soon began to read the book carefully since the photographs beg you to listen to the stories they tell about people, their lives, their aspirations and their ceremonies. For centuries Africa was a continent of massive migrations and vibrant cultures. All had their high time, declined in the normal course of events and left a legacy for their successors. Yet most ceremonies, although embellished and refined over time, remained largely the same. The hypnotic photograph of the Voodoo dancer from Ghana on the front of the slip case, for example, speaks of a time of spirits, oracles and divinations. Of soothsayers and intermediaries between man and the higher powers as well as of the unshakable belief that intervention is needed to protect man from evil, to solve his troubles, to cure his illnesses and generally to secure good fortune. And the Berber bride in her bejeweled headdress and cloak on the spine of the book reminds us that not all Africans are of black skin colour and that depending on what coast of Africa one finds oneself on, influences from out of Africa have helped to create new Africans. And with them ceremonies.
Beckwith and Fisher have been photographing Africa for over thirty years, and like a ripe savoury wine African Ceremonies was many years in the making. With the expert collaboration of writers and designers each volume now contains three sections: Birth and Initiation; Courtship and Marriage; Royalty and Power in Volume 1; and Seasonal Rites; Beliefs and Worship; Spirits and Ancestors in Volume 2.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Hayden M. Fink on December 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The New York Times Sunday Book Review section today had a wonderful review of this book (2 volumes in a slipcase). The documentation of ritual and people performing rituals as the seasons change in Nature and life cycles turn for People is a sacred task. The photographers appear to have embraced their subjects with care and respect - perhaps others will follow in this way in the future. What strikes me most about the book and the reviews is the genuine approach of the authors to the dignity, honor and respect of the African People they have photographed and documented. This alone makes the book a winner for me.
Regarding the book, I am particularly impressed by their treatment of sacredness without judgment and jaded lens. Indeed the art and form of ritual itself creates tradition. The music of these images is at once visual and alive celebrating the sacred as timeless expressions of culture and community.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Parodi TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The "concise edition" of AFRICAN CEREMONIES opens with a preface by Dr. Malidoma Some, president of "Echoes of the Ancestors" and author of his autobiography OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT and THE HEALING WISDOM OF AFRICA. Malidoma is from the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso. His name means "make friends with the stranger/enemy," and that is why he now lives in the West.
I have met Malidoma on a few occasions (participating in some of his rituals) and I corresponded with him for a time. He has been incredibly helpful and supportive in my own spiritual journey (he is an initiated shaman of his tribe and has recently become the youngest initiated elder), and therefore I trust what he says. Malidoma's preface makes it clear that, sadly, AFRICAN CEREMONIES documents a world that - unlike the claims of some - is not entirely gone, but that is quickly vanishing. Malidoma comments that these photographs are very important because they show the last time that some of these ceremonies will be performed in such elaborate nature, and perhaps they will never be performed again at all.
AFRICAN CEREMONIES continues the tradition of these well respected photographers by providing a beautiful volume of beautiful peoples.
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