‘African Twilight’: a stunning new photo book captures the continent’s vanishing rituals

For decades, photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have explored remote communities in Africa, documenting sacred initiations, courtship rituals, shamanic mask dancing and jubilant creative works. Their stunning new two-volume book set, “African Twilight: The Vanishing Rituals and Ceremonies of the African Continent” (Rizzoli), captures these vivid and fleeting rites.

“We feel privileged to have spent 40 years in Africa recording ceremonies in 44 out of the 54 African countries,” Beckwith tells Alexa. “When we arrive in Africa, we take on Africa time. We work slowly, live with communities, make friends and build trust before we start taking photographs.”

The result is a colorful account of customs that are rapidly vanishing. “Forty percent of the ceremonies we recorded no longer exist,” she notes.

“We learned the value of rites of passage that define and teach us what to expect at every stage of life,” adds Fisher. “We hope people take away the richness, diversity, beauty and creativity of African cultures.”

The book (with a foreword by architect Sir David Adjaye, lead designer of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC) is currently the subject of a multimedia exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif., through Jan. 6. In the photo excerpts here, the authors journey inside rarely accessible African communities and bear witness to their extraordinary artistry.

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