The 2012-2013 National Geographic Live Arizona Speaker Series, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and The Arizona Geographic Alliance, presents African Ceremonies: Documenting a Vanishing World at Mesa Arts Center tonight, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Photographers and Filmmakers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher will share their incredible images, videos, and stories of the rich and colorful African cultures rarely seen by the outside world. “Through our books and lectures we tell people about Africa’s core values; respect for their elders, the benefit of growing up as part of a community, and the importance of living in harmony with nature and one’s own spirit world.” — Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith.
Tickets are available through the Mesa Arts Center Box Office at MesaArtsCenter.com or by calling 480-644-6500.
While the traditions they document may appear timeless, these committed explorers are driven by a sense that they work against the clock. They view Africa’s cultures as threatened, the ancient ways in danger of being lost in a vast melting pot of modernity. According to Fisher and Beckwith: “These unique cultures possess a wealth of knowledge that should be celebrated, shared, and honored. It is our life passion to document and create a powerful visual record of these vanishing ways of life for future generations.”
Their thirty years of work have taken them across 270,000 miles and through remote corners of 40 countries and in contact with more than 150 African cultures. This duo of world-renowned and critically acclaimed photographers have successfully produced fifteen books and created four films about traditional Africa. Beckwith and Fisher’s success in collecting such closely guarded information came from their insatiable curiosity, incredible hardiness, humor, and profound respect for Africa’s indigenous peoples. These traits have gained them access to worlds that have been closed off from outsiders.
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. They have received numerous awards from organizations around the world for their work, such as the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award of the Explorers Club, which is only given to the world’s most distinguished explorers.
“African Ceremonies,” their defining body of work published twelve years ago, is a double volume that sold close to one hundred thousand copies. It is a pan-African study of rituals and rites of passage from birth to death, covering 93 ceremonies from 26 countries. This book won the United Nations Award for Excellence for “vision and understanding of the role of cultural traditions in the pursuit of world peace.” Most recently, the pair has completed their latest book called “Painted Bodies: African Body Painting, Tattoos, and Scarification”, which explores the fascinating and beautiful art of African body painting; featuring extraordinary photographs of enduring cultures. This is Beckwith and Fisher’s fifteenth book of ceremonies and body painting of the African people. “One of the most beautiful books I have ever seen,” writes author Alex Shoumatoff.
National Geographic Live is the live events division of the National Geographic Society, featuring live concerts, films, and dynamic presentations by today's leading explorers, scientists, filmmakers, and photographers covering a wide range of topics including: exploration and adventure; wildlife and habitat conservation; natural phenomena; and relevant issues such as climate change. Proceeds from speaker series ticket sales help fund future National Geographic initiatives in field research, exploration, and education. For more information visit www.nglive.org.
The Mesa Arts Center, owned and operated by the City of Mesa, is a unique, architecturally stunning facility located in the heart of downtown Mesa. Arizona's largest arts center is home to four theaters, five art galleries, and 14 art studios. Guests, patrons, and students come to Mesa Arts Center to enjoy the finest live entertainment and performances, world-class visual art exhibitions, and outstanding arts education classes. The Mesa Arts Center mission is to inspire people through engaging arts experiences that are diverse, accessible, and relevant. Mesa Arts Center has received numerous awards and accolades including the “2010 Arts Organization of the Year,” by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Phoenix; the “2011 Best Venue to See National Acts” Best of Phoenix New Times; and most recently “2012 Best Arts Center” Critic’s Choice azcentral.com.
For more information, visit mesaartscenter.com.