Picturing the Face of the African Diaspora

"We are Africans not because we are born in Africa," says New York Times photographer Chester Higgins Jr., "but because Africa is born in us." For the past 30 years, Higgins has traveled the globe documenting the traditions, spirituality and dignity of people of African heritage.He has lived among and photographed Dogon dancers in Mali, Vodou practitioners in Haiti, Black Hebrews in Harlem and Yoruba worshipers in Brazil. Now some 270 of these images can be seen in two exhibitions sponsored by the Smithsonian's Center for African American History and Culture. "Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa" and "Invoking the Spirit: Worship Traditions in the African World" are on view through March 23 in the South Gallery of the Arts and Industries Building.

"It's the people's characters themselves speaking through the film, through the lens, that tells the story," says Higgins. From the Sahel region of Senegal to the streets of Harlem, Higgins creates a compelling chronicle of the life and times of men and women of African descent.

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