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African Ceremonies: The Concise Edition Hardcover – Deluxe Edition, October 8, 2002

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African Ceremonies: The Concise Edition + Faces of Africa: Thirty Years of Photography (National Geographic Collectors Series) + Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; Concise edition (October 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810934841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810934849
  • Product Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Beckwith and Fisher, two western photographers (the former American, the latter Australian) fascinated by the rituals of Africa, spent 10 years traveling the continent to document their passion on film for the first edition of this stunning book. In 1999, it was released in a slip-cased, $150, two-volume edition; it featured 850 images of the various namings, initiations, weddings and coronations the women witnessed during their travels, as well as countless other moments of consequence with their generous hosts. Now comes the concise edition, which boasts more than half the original collection assembled in a single, large, full-color book and accompanied by a CD of ceremonial African music by composer David Bradnum. The images are bright, intimate and genuinely exotic, and they speak to a diversity of fascinating and wildly inventive rituals. From the Pedi people's beadwork to the Do-society's shaggy raffia outfits, the images capture a multitude of beautiful costumes on beautiful people, celebrating their life cycles from birth to death. For those interested in the tribal cultures of Africa, this would be a tough volume to miss. Over 400 color photographs
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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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

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 1000 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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