There are endless debates to be had about how this process will evolve but one thing is for sure: it is vital to capture glimpses of the more ancient variants of African culture (insofar as they survive) while we can.
This signals neither approval nor disapproval of said cultures (who has the audacity to make such an adjudication?). It simply reflects an intellectual duty that will pay dividends in the future.
Sergey Yastrzhembsky has spent extended periods in Africa taking many photographs of what this book terms the patriarchal daily routine of peoples who have sought to preserve the ways of their ancestors.
Yastrzhembsky’s geographical range is impressive (from Kenya to Ethiopia, from Benin to Uganda, with many points between) and his choice of subjects seems wise. Local customs, rites of passage, religious observances, and the daily round are all on display.
The book’s subtitle is apt, if a little clumsy: The Last Sunrise Photo-Chronicle of the Vanishing Life. Quite how quickly that life vanishes remains to be seen, but Yastrzhembsky deserves credit for undertaking such a long, and presumably rather arduous, series of journeys. Then again, he is probably well accustomed to thinking on his feet and responding to unexpected challenges. In a previous life he was a high-flying aide of Vladimir Putin. After that, trudging around Africa must have felt like a holiday.
This is a pricey book and most likely aimed at the holders of the purse strings at libraries (nothing wrong with that) but it does serve a useful ethnographic purpose and reminds us why Africa has always been such a magnet for photographers.
PATRIARCHAL AFRICA: The Last Sunrise Photo-Chronicle of the Vanishing Life by Sergey Yastrzhembsky, Skira, £71.50 (hardback)
This review was published in the May 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine