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Raffia Animal Mask, Burkina Faso by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher 2014; Pende Stilt Dancers Gungu DR Congo by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher 2014

Cape Town’s THK Photography Gallery is hosting an exhibition of arresting photography that documents rituals and ceremonies from some of the most remote corners of Africa.

Titled African Twilight: Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies, the exhibition showcases the work of award-winning international photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, who have travelled the continent extensively in order to capture their mesmerising images, which offer a usually restricted view inside some of the mysterious sacred ceremonies that take place throughout Africa.

Having met more than 40 years ago in Kenya, American-born Beckwith and Australian Fisher began travelling the African continent together, recording 150 cultures spread across 48 countries. Their journey culminated in a career-defining book, African Ceremonies, which was published in 1999 and accompanied by an exhibition titled Passagesat the Brooklyn Museum of Art, later travelling internationally to a multitude of leading institutions.

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Turkana Female Elder, Kenya cr Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher 2014

The award-winning pair’s latest book – a heavy double-volume tome – and traveling exhibition, African Twilight, completes the journey begun in African Ceremonies, covering rituals and ceremonies from some of the most inaccessible corners of the continent.

Significantly, it is the first solo show presented by the pair on the African continent and will include images from their travels to Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Kenya, DR Congo, and Cameroon.

The images capture the vast cultural diversity of Africa and span the human life cycle from birth to death, covering unique initiation ceremonies into adulthood, colourful rituals of courtship and marriage, the splendour of power and leadership in Royal Kingdoms, seasonal rites of survival, diverse religious beliefs, healing practices and, finally, extraordinary rituals of death and the fascinating role of the afterworld. What is notable is that more than 40 percent of what has been documented here has already vanished.

The exhibition comprises 27 photographs and 10 short video films, and THK Photography Gallery has a limited number of books available.

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Image: Kimberley Hale

Beckwith and Fisher have twice been honoured with the Annisfield-Wolf Book Award in race relations for ‘outstanding contributions to the understanding of cultural diversity and prejudice’, and have won the Royal Geographical Society of London’s Cherry Kearton Medal for their ‘contribution to the photographic recording of African ethnography and ritual’.

The exhibition at THK Photography Gallery runs until 2 February 2019.

THK Photography Gallery, 52 Waterkant Street, Cape Town. Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 10am-3pm

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