In the National Geographic Society’s “Passages: Photographs of Africa,” exhibition, the images are almost secondary to the elucidation of a continent’s diverse array of cultural practices. The photographs, taken in nearly 20 African countries by Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher, are reproduced in grand size and brilliant color, but for those with limited knowledge of African culture, the explanatory texts might steal the show, recounting, for example, the monthslong initiation ceremony in which Bassari boys must temporarily revert to virtual infancy before gaining independence and the practice of lathering perfumed butter fat on newly married Himba women. Perhaps most memorable, though, is a video of the charm dance of the Wodaabe, in which fancily dressed men attempt to keep one eye in place while rolling the other one around—a feat their society considers especially alluring. The show is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to Jan. 9, 2005; see City List for other dates) at the National Geographic Explorer’s Hall, 17th and M Streets NW. Free. (202) 857-7588. (Louis Jacobson)