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African ceremonies
Above: Wodaabe charm dancers, Niger (Photo: Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, courtesy of Abrams)

Photographers Will Present Views of African Rituals at Davidson

Award-winning photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher will offer the public fascinating view of disappearing African tribal traditions during a presentation at Davidson College on Wednesday, March 22. These two women, whose work has been featured in National Geographic cover articles, will show slides of traditional African rites and rituals that capture a vanishing way of life on the continent.
Beckwith and Fisher
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, authors of African Ceremonies. (Photo by Athi Mara)

The free presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. in Love Auditorium of Chambers Building, and is sponsored by the Public Lectures Committee and Dean Rusk Program in International Studies. For more information, call 892-2170.

Beckwith and Fisher have have been separately and jointly photographing in Africa for 30 years, publishing their work in several books and numerous magazine articles. Last year they issued their masterwork-a monumental two-volume book entitled African Ceremonies that includes more than 800 color photographs.
Karo Dancer
Karo dancer, Ethiopia (Photo: Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, courtesy of Abrams)

The book has been highly touted in the media during the past few months, and the authors have appeared on national television and radio shows to talk about it. On "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer said, "I am absolutely crazy about this book. It is my favorite." Alex Chadwick on "Morning Edition" said, "Itıs a big and glorious book. The book designers at Abrams agreed that this is the most important book in the memory of any of them."

The book came together during the past 10 years during which the authors lived with each of the groups they photographed, capturing the rituals of indigenous people on film. They became self-taught ethnographers-anthropologists who do close observation of specific cultures and gather material by living within the culture of their subjects.
House Painting
Ndebele woman painting house, South Africa (Photo: Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, courtesy of Abrams)

During their visit to Davidson, the two women will provide an inside view ceremonies which mark the life cycle from beginning to end‹including birth and initiation, courtship and marriage, royalty and power, seasonal rites, beliefs and worship, and spirits and ancestors.

They traveled by mule train over rugged Ethiopian mountains to reach the Surma people and photograph one of the most unique courtship rituals in Africa. Every year, Surma men come together to perform wild and violent stick fights to win the hearts of prospective wives. They also photographed the Wodaabe nomad men of Niger, who spend hours beautifying themselves for an all-male beauty contest that is judged by women who select their favorites as husbands and lovers. They dangled from homemade ropes fastened to the side of cliffs to photograph the burial rituals of Dogon people of Mali, whose deceased are laid to rest in caves.

Time magazine wrote of their work, "There is a poignancy in Beckwith and Fisherıs images, a sense that we are seeing some of the last things on earth that have not been subsumed by 20th century Western culture."

Himba woman possessed by lion, Namibia (Photo: Carol Beckwith & Angela Fisher, courtesy of Abrams)

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