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.