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African Ceremonies

Friday Harbor, United States

Thirty years ago American-born Carol Beckwith and Australian Angela Fisher met in Kenya and began a relationship with the African continent that would profoundly alter and shape their lives. Their journeys have taken them over 270,000 miles, through remote corners of 40 countries, and to more than 150 African cultures. During this time the two photographers would produce 14 universally acclaimed books, 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 (2010) and Painted Bodies (2012). Their defining body of work, the double volume African Ceremonies (1999), a pan-African study of rituals and rites of passage from birth to death covering ninety-three ceremonies from twenty six countries, won the 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 also been twice honoured with the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award in race relations for “outstanding contributions to the understanding of cultural diversity and prejudice,” the Royal Geographical Society of London’s Cherry Kearton Medal for their “contribution to the photographic recording of African ethnography and ritual,” and most recently the Lifetime Achievement Award from WINGS World Quest, honouring the accomplishments of visionary women. 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 numerous photographic exhibitions have received acclaim in museums and galleries throughout the world, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, National Geographic Museum, Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Borges Cultural Center of Buenos Aires, National Museums of Kenya, and venues in Australia, Europe, and Japan. The two photographers have lectured at such venues as the Explorers Club in New York, the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C. and many US cities as well as the Royal Geographic Society in London. Aware that traditional cultures in Africa are fast disappearing, Carol and Angela are working with an urgency to complete the third volume of their ongoing study of African Ceremonies with the goal of covering the remaining traditional ceremonies in the 13 African cultures in which they have not yet worked. This book entitled African Twilight is scheduled for publication in 2014. “These unique cultures posses a wealth of knowledge that should be celebrated, shared, and honoured. It is our life passion to document and create a powerful visual record of these vanishing ways of life for future generations.”

The FOUNDATION: African Ceremonies, Inc
Recording the Past, Supporting the Future
African Ceremonies Inc, a 501C3 charitable foundation, is dedicated to the preservation of African tribal traditions through the photographic documentation of ceremonies and customs, thereby ensuring that the strength and essence of African culture is preserved for the history of mankind and for the education of future generations. The Foundation is also dedicated to carrying out community and individual projects, serving the needs of the groups with whom Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have lived. “During our 30 years in Africa recording traditional ceremonies, we have observed that life relies on a continuing cycle of giving and receiving. Each rite begins with a gift or an offering: survival depends on this basic principle. We, too, have looked for the appropriate ways to reciprocate the support given to us by the communities where we have lived. We found that small projects closely tied to communal and personal needs at grass roots level have made a significant difference to the welfare of the people with whom we have worked.”

— Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher

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