Photographers to show decades of work done in Africa on Wednesday evening at Paepcke
Two photographers who have spent over 40 years capturing the sacred ceremonies and art forms of traditional African communities will present their latest multimedia exhibition Wednesday at the Paepcke Auditorium.
Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher have documented the lifestyles of more than 200 African cultures in 45 of the continent’s 54 countries across over 300,000 miles.
Their latest exhibition, “African Twilight,” covers the past 15 years of their work and aims to show the diverse artistry and creativity of African cultures — and how many of these remote cultures and traditions are disappearing.
“We feel we’ve captured something that shows a sense of urgency … 40% of the traditions we’ve documented no longer exist,” Fisher said via phone Monday afternoon. “Africa is the birthplace of humanity. It’s where we all came from and its cultural heritage belongs to us all.”
On Wednesday evening, Beckwith and Fisher will show 85 photos and 10 short videos in hopes of helping attendees understand how rich and varied the cultures of African communities are.
They will be hosted by the local Friends of Africa International nonprofit, which aims to conserve and protect African wildlife, environment and culture, and brought Beckwith and Fisher to present in Aspen in 2003.
Since 2003, Beckwith and Fisher’s portfolio has grown to include more books and videos, including “African Twilight,” and will continue to grow until the women have captured the traditional cultures of every African country, they said.
When they’ve reached this goal, Fisher and Beckwith plan to create a comprehensive archive of their work and display it both physically within a public institution and digitally in schools and communities across Africa.
“Many of the elders we’ve talked with say they lament the fact that the younger generations aren’t as interested in maintaining tradition … they want to go into the cities for the promise of a modern life,” Beckwith said.
“But some of the kids who have left their traditions have reached out to us and want to know who their grandparents were and what ceremonies and rituals they practiced. … That’s why we want to bring a digital museum back to Africa, so these traditional values can be introduced in new ways into the modern world.”
Over the past four decades, Beckwith and Fisher acknowledged they’d learned a lot about African peoples. But the women also said they’ve learned a lot about life in general.
“We were initially attracted to the creativity (in Africa), but after we started living among these communities, we realized that life can be lived in a variety of ways; there is no one way,” Fisher said. “Our mission is to tell this big life story and we are blessed to be two women doing it together.”
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