C4 GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS

For Immediate release:
August, 2014
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C4 Global Communications, Caroline Graham
caroline@c4global.com

CAROL BECKWITH AND ANGELA FISHER
CONTINUE DOCUMENTING AFRICA’S VANISHING CULTURES IN CONGO

Renowned photographers and chroniclers of Africa’s vanishing cultures, Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith will take seven exciting fieldwork trips this year. Each expedition will take them into the heart of Africa’s most remote regions, often at the invitation of local Chieftans and village elders.

The 2014 expeditions are: Masquerades in Burkina Faso; Kara Jumping of the Bull Male Initiations in Ethiopia; Turkana Wedding in Kenya, Salampasu Initiations in Congo; Marriage Rituals in Somaliland; Moulids on the Nile in Egypt and Ceremonies of the Bamun Royal Kingdom in Cameroon.

CONGO – July 2014

“We have just returned from 4 week expedition to the Congo,“ say Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher “and would like to share with you some of the highlights of the trip. Congo is definitely one of the most challenging of all the countries in which we have worked.

Despite the very real difficulties of getting into and out of the remote areas of this large country, with limited safe planes, pot–holed roads, and broken bridges, we travelled further than we could have imagined on motorbikes and by dug out canoes. The great advantage to this arduous travel is that we were often the only Europeans to travel into areas unvisited in the past 40 years since the departure of Belgian missionaries from the Congo.”



Clockwise from L–R: 1. Male Initiation Mask, Kenya; 2. Carol, Angela and with Pende Sorcerers, Congo; 3. Warrior with Cane Headdress, Congo; 4. Saka Mpasu Warrior, Congo

Sala Mpasu
The Sala Mpasu people live in southern Congo close to the border of Angola. This is a group of people whose warrior class were so feared by their neighbours that to this day they still live in relative isolation! Young boys are still initiated in the sacred forest where they are secluded from their families and trained for three months by ritual guardians and masked mentors in the arts of manhood. We were privileged to be able to record two Sala Mpasu boys initiation ceremonies, starting in the sacred forest and ending with the boys return to their families in the village.

Pende
Unlike the Sala Mpasu who are agriculturalists and hunters, the Pende of Southwestern Congo come from one of the oldest Royal Kingdoms in Central Africa. Traditionally, Pende masks are danced to appease the ancestors, protect chiefs and kings, and attend important funerals. They are also used in acts of sorcery which to this day, despite the influence of Christianity, underlies the modern Pende world.

“We were invited by Chief Kibala to attend three days of ritual masked dances,” continue Carol and Angela “followed by a visit to his private village museum of 17,000 pieces collected over a 35 year period. We were astonished by the magnitude and density of his collection.

“After a very fast turnaround in London, we leave for Somaliland to attend the annual Hargeysa Literary and Poetry Festival (where poets are treated like rock stars!). Following the festival we will be travelling into the desert to record a traditional Somali nomad wedding. We will be back in London on September 1st and look forward to being in touch and planning our next visit with you.”



Clockwise from L–R: 1. Royal Entertainer in Rafia Costume, Congo; 2.Cheif Kibala in his Private Museum, Congo; 3.Head Sorcerer of Pende, Congo; 4. Initiates Carried out of Sacred Forest.

Commenting on the rapid changes facing traditional Africa, Carol and Angela remark, “We have witnessed the loss of traditional cultural practices and beliefs as each new generation moves forward and embraces the 21st century, bringing with it the powerful influence of the outside world. We have felt compassion for the elders as they watch their traditional world and values disappear, and empathy for the young generation seeking a new way of life. We are touched by the children of this generation who come to us asking about their grandparents — who were they, where did they come from and what did they believe in? Over 40% of what we have recorded during the past 35 years no longer exists or has changed dramatically. We have dedicated our lives to documenting the last of the truly traditional cultures on the continent.”

Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher met in Kenya over thirty–five years ago and teamed up to form one of the greatest duo’s in photography. Their unique, award–winning images, covering 150 African cultures, were taken on journeys totaling 270,000 miles throughout Africa. As young female explorers, they saw Africa through the eyes of the people they lived with, photographing each group meticulously, from their body adornment to their ritual passages through life. Each image tells a story of the lives of the men, women and children within the vibrant traditions of these cultures. Their extraordinary photographs are recorded in fourteen best–selling books and in their films. Their new book “Painted Bodies” (2012) follows “Maasai” (1980), “Nomads of Niger” (1983), “Africa Adorned” (1984), “African Ark” (1990), “African Ceremonies” (1999), “Passages” (2000), “Faces of Africa” (2004), “Lamu: Kenya’s Enchanted Island” (2009), and “Dinka” (2010). The special limited edition books, hand printed in Santiago, Chile, are titled “Surma,” “Karo,” “Maasai,” and “Dinka.”

The photographers have made four films about traditional Africa, including Way of the Wodaabe (1986), The Painter and the Fighter, and two programs for the Millennium Series Tribal Wisdom and The Modern World. Numerous exhibitions of their photography and films have been shown in museums and galleries around the world. In 2000 their Passages exhibition opened at the Brooklyn Museum of Art featuring 97 mural photographs, six films and a selection of African masks, sculpture and jewelry. This exhibition travelled to seven museums on three continents and can now be viewed on the Google Cultural Institute’s website.

For more information and interviews contact: Caroline Graham (caroline@c4global.com)
C4 Global Communications Santa Monica, CA 310-899-2727 www.c4global.com