"Africa is the cradle of humankind and a crucible of our creativity. It is the continent on which humanity first flourished and, two hundred thousand years later, it shows no sign of slowing down.
"On a continent where urban city dwellers live within a few hundred miles of tribal hunter-gatherers, it is no wonder that Africa remains one of the world’s richest melting pots of art, culture and spirituality, producing artists, musicians and dancers that continue to inspire the rest of the world.
"For the last fourteen years of our continuous 40-year journey across Africa, we have been seeking out remote communities; we have crossed thousands of miles of often extremely inhospitable terrain, in order to record the sacred ceremonies, powerful art forms, and boundless creativity of the people living there today. We have been granted rare access to ceremonies usually closed to outsiders, including the Royal Igue Ceremony in the Palace of Benin, the Royal masquerade dances for the Kuba King of DR Congo, the Famadihana, the biannual rewrapping of the dead in Madagascar, and the secret rites in the Voodoo shrines of Ouidah Benin.
"Africa is changing at a dramatic pace. Over 40% of what we have recorded no longer exists. Our photographs present traditional cultures in a contemporary context – we focus on the living rituals and ceremonies that not only express the great creativity and diversity of the continent but also facilitate the passages through life. The images reveal the epic splendor of Africa and also intimately portray the depth and breadth of human emotion as an individual undergoes the symbolic rituals which mark the most profound and exhilarating moments of life."
- Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher
Over 40 years ago, American-born Carol Beckwith and Australian Angela Fisher met in Kenya and began a relationship with the African continent. They have journeyed over 300,000 miles, through 48 countries, and recorded 150 African cultures.
Sixteen acclaimed books of their photographs, including Maasai (1980); Nomads of the Niger (1983); Africa Adorned (1984), African Ark (1990), African Ceremonies (1999); Passages (2000); Faces of Africa (2004); Lamu: Kenya’s Enchanted Island (2009); Dinka: Legendary Cattle Keepers of Sudan (2010); and Painted Bodies: African Body Painting, Tattoos and Scarification (2012) have been published during this time.
Their double volume book, African Ceremonies, depicts pan-African rituals and rites of passage from birth to death, covering 93 ceremonies from 26 countries. It was the focus of the exhibition, Passages, held at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 2000 and received a United Nations’ Award for Excellence for its ‘vision and understanding of the role of cultural traditions in the pursuit of world peace’.
Angela and Carol have been honoured twice with the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award in race relations for ‘outstanding contributions to the understanding of cultural diversity and prejudice’, and won the Royal Geographical Society of London’s Cherry Kearton Medal for their ‘contribution to the photographic recording of African ethnography and ritual’.
These multi-talented photographers have also been involved in the making of four films about traditional Africa, including Way of the Wodaabe (1986); The Painter and the Fighter; and Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World.
Their latest two-volume book, African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies is published by Rizzoli, New York (October 2018), completing the journey begun in African Ceremonies (Abrams, New York,1999), covering rituals and ceremonies from some of the most inaccessible corners of the continent.