Typepad Import Image

_ Photo © Phylis Galembo_

Africa has always been a continent of such wild extremes — cultural and geographic, political and demographic — that it defies categorization, lives in its own realm, yet continues to impact the entire planet. These days the land is much in the news as turmoil in the Niger Delta exacerbates the global oil crisis; the U.S. prepares to nominate its first African-American major-party contender; and the world debates war-crimes charges against a sitting president, among other things. All of which serves as a backdrop to an ambitious series of photo exhibitions called Africas, at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, from now to September.

The three concurrent shows take very different swipes at a vast subject. The outlandish pageantry of tribal costumes in West Africa is on display in artist Phylis Galembo’s West African Masquerade. (Her shot of Ngar Ball traditional dancers is above.) The complex and destructive turf wars in Nigeria’s oil industry are explored in Ed Kashi’s Curse of the Black Gold. And nuggets from the Eastman House’s permanent collection come out of the vaults for a survey show of African images shot by such names as Margaret Bourke-White, Eugene Smith, Arnold Newman, and Mary Ellen Mark.