All Things Kenyan

Passages – Photographs in Africa

Title: Passages – Photographs in Africa
Author: Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher
Publishing Company: Harry N. Abrams
Number of Pages: 112
Original Publishing Date: August 2000

This book is best described as a coffee table book.  The pictures depict various rite of passage in many African tribes.  They have included marriages, funerals, healing rituals, and the passage into adulthood.

What I Liked:
The pictures in this book are absolutely outstanding.  I’m not sure you could find better pictures of these African tribes anywhere else.  This book is oversized – with lots of space for the pictures.  The pictures take up most or the entire page – sometimes a picture will span two pages.  As I studied these pictures, I noticed the occasional western influence – a little boy wearing a loincloth with neon peace symbols on it.  Also look for western t-shirts in some of the other photos.

One can also see examples of male dominance – Men riding on camels while their wives ride on horses.  This may not seem obvious as first, but the men are riding on the camels so that they are higher than the women.  In the picture the contrast of heights is striking. Another picture shows a man riding a horse while his three wives walk beside him.  Again the husband is sitting higher than the wife or wives.

The pictures have a ‘National Geographic’ quality to them.  You will find nudity in this book.  However, I did not it to be gratuitous nudity.  It’s simply the way each of these tribes live. Yes, you will find more topless women than bottomless men – something you may want to consider if you have younger children in your home.

What I Didn’t Like:
The descriptions of the pictures are excellent at times – other times they tend to be minimal.  There are pictures of girls with their hair done in various styles.  At times, I found myself wondering what they had put in their hair.  Was it mud, or clay, or possibly dung?  That question wasn’t answered in this book.  Often I found myself asking questions about the pictures and not finding one.  Yes, this book is subtitled ‘Photographs in Africa’ so perhaps this book is not meant to answer my questions.  Even more possible it is meant to get the reader thinking and asking themselves questions.

A review copy of Passages – Photographs in Africa was sent by the publisher free of charge.