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An African photo exhibit, with books

December 2, 2008 | 12:03 pm

Karohandprint_2 Photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have devoted 30 years to exploring the traditions, cultures and people of Africa. They immerse themselves in the lifestyle of a particular tribe by living in the same manner and eating the same food in order to befriend people whose stories they hope to tell personally and intimately.

The images they have captured in their journeys across the vast continent have been published in more than 10 books including, "African Art: People and Ancient Cultures of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa," "Nomads of Niger," "Maasai" and "Faces of Africa: Thirty Years of Photography."

"Passages: Photographs in Africa," the first in a three-part series, is the focus of the "Passages" art exhibit currently on display at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. A hundred of the photos are from this double-volume collection, which was based on a 10-year "African Ceremonies" study in which they documented ceremonies and rituals marking transition points in the human life cycle covering 36 countries and 150 ethnic groups.


Coinciding with the exhibit, the London-based pair launched their newest book, "The Dinka," which examines the fragile culture of the Sudan cattle herders in a 30-year span.

"Back in the '70's they were a lovely, very tall, innocent people living an idyllic lifestyle," said Fisher. This elegant tribe became entangled in civil conflicts over the years with an estimated 2 million massacred, including the recent violence in Darfur. Today, AK-47s and Western garb are more common sights than they used to be.

Several of their books are available in the Bowers Museum bookstore, but "The Dinka" is only available with a donation to Beckwith's and Fisher's African Ceremonies charitable foundation, which supports their ongoing work in Angola, Botswana, Tanzania and Cameroon, among other places.

-- Liesl Bradner