Cover image for African ark : the peoples and ancient cultures of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa
African ark : the peoples and ancient cultures of Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa
Beckwith, Carol, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : H.N. Abrams, 1990.
Physical Description:
320 pages ; 36 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GN650 .B43 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
GN650 .B43 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

A beautiful, monumental work. The "Ark" is the Horn of Africa, a region encompassing Ethiopia, Somalia, and parts of Kenya and the Sudan. Free of the stamp of colonialism, "vast and remote, the Horn of Africa . . . shelters an astonishing variety of human societies: from the ancient and highly sophisticated to the remote, simple and untouched." This is a collection of unexpected and stirring portraits accompanied by Graham Hancock's vivid prose. Photographers Beckwith and Fisher have recorded people at play and in prayer, decked out in elaborate finery, proud, graceful and seemingly outside of time. The Christians of Lalibela worship in 800-year-old churches "hewn directly out of the solid red volcanic rock." The Falashas practice an ancient, pre-Talmudic Judaism, while the Surma women wear lip plates and the Karo paint their bodies, transforming them~selves into otherwordly creatures. The photo~graphs are stupendous, radiating the energy of lives ordered by tradition and strong cultural identities. ~--Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Two talented photographers focus on the Horn of Africa--an ``ark'' that shelters an astonishing variety of landscapes and human societies. Starting with the Christian Amharas of Lalibela and Axum and the Falashas of Lake Tana, they complete an arc that takes them to the seacoast of Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia, as far south as Lamu in Kenya, and finally to the remote peoples of the Southeast who still engage in stick fighting, body painting, scarification and the wearing of lip plates. Other handsome peoples they depict include the desert-dwelling Afar, Beja and Rashaida, the Somali nomads of Ogaden and the ecstatic Oromo (formerly Galla) pilgrims of the Bale Mountains. As in Beckwith and Fisher's previous, award-winning books ( Maasai and Nomads of the Niger ), their magnificent color photos (240 of them here) are the glory of this beautifully designed volume. Hancock's ( Ethiopia ) useful if uninspired text covers indigenous societies, cultures, crafts, religions, sacred places, dances, and cycles of life and death. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Beckwith and Fisher's visually stunning pictorials of African cultures (they have worked separately on earlier books about the Masai and Fulani) combine beautiful photos of people and objects with easy-to-read explanatory texts sprinkled with charming line drawings. Joining forces here, with the literary assistance of journalist Hancock, they focus on probably the least understood and most ``exotic'' African region. Each chapter covers a different people among Ethiopia's remarkably diverse cultures: Coptic Christians, Falasha Jews, Somali Moslems, and traditional animists. Lacking an index and extensive bibliography, the book's value as a research tool is limited, yet as visual documentation of little-known cultures and art forms it is strongly recommended.-- Eugene C. Burt, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this large-format book of photographs of the rural peoples of Ethiopia and Somalia, there are 244 color photographs, the majority full-page or even double-page. The photographs are by Carol Beckwith, who has produced two earlier books of similar character about nomadic pastoralists of East and West Africa, Maasai (1980) and Nomads of Niger (1984), and by Angela Fisher, who produced the photographs for a book on African jewelry, Africa Adorned (CH, Mar'85). The brief text is by Graham Hancock, a journalist with experience in East Africa. There are nine small maps that give the general locations of peoples and places mentioned in the text and photographs. There is but one page of notes, including bibliographic references. The photographs are of very high quality, and the book is lavishly designed, printed, and bound to show off the photographs to best advantage. The brief text supplies enough very basic information to provide a general context for the photographs, although the captions are often vague. A significant number of the photographs show women or men with breasts or genitalia exposed, which, although accurately depicting current dress, raise concerns about exploitation of subjects who may not have known how the photographs would be used. (Did these people sign photographic releases? Will the photographers take copies of the book to Ethiopia to share with their subjects?) Although most of the photographs emphasize the beauty and dignity of the peoples of the area, far too many emphasize what Americans find exotic, primitive, and bizarre without adequate explanation, reinforcing western stereotypes of Africa's people. -C. D. Roy, University of Iowa