2013 John Hope Franklin Award Winners Immerse Themselves in Summer-Long Documentary Projects

Photograph by 2012 John Hope Franklin Award recipient  Alice Kim

Photograph by 2012 John Hope Franklin Award recipient Alice Kim

And they’re off….three undergrads from local universities will be pursuing summer-long documentary projects as recipients of the 2013 John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Awards. While many of the Center for Documentary Studies‘ awards are national or international in focus, the John Hope Franklin awards go to Triangle-area undergraduates who wish to pursue projects involving oral history, photography, film or video, and/or writing. Established by CDS in 1989, the awards are named for the noted scholar John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University, in recognition of his lifetime accomplishments and his dedication to students and teaching.

Congratulations to the 2013 John Hope Franklin Student Documentary Award winners; we’ll be following their progress as they immerse themselves in their projects:

Phoebe Ora DeKornfeld (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Audio: Bwaila Fistula Clinic, Lilongwe, Malawi

Ora DeKornfeld is producing a thirty-minute audio documentary about the destructive impact of obstetric fistula—a childbirth injury suffered during prolonged, unassisted labor— on women in Sub-Saharan Africa through the story of one Malawian woman, Melia Solomon, who suffered its devastating consequences.

DeKornfeld met Solomon last year when she was in Malawi with six other UNC media students to document a safe drinking water initiative. She toured the Bwaila Fistula Clinic, where Solomon now helps other women. DeKornfeld writes, “The Bwaila Fistula Clinic seeks to eradicate this medical, and social, affliction. The clinic provides effective and compelling holistic care, sending women home physically, psychologically, and emotionally healed. I will interweave her story with the oral histories of the patients she now helps against a rich fabric of cultural sound—from rural village life to Lilongwe’s bustling street markets to the spontaneous, exuberant outbursts of song and dance that saturate Malawian culture.”

Madeline Miller (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Audio: The Nursing Home Is a Personal Space

In her audio project, Madeline Miller is exploring the ways in which the elderly are able to find and cultivate privacy and personal space—a sense of home and belonging—within the public areas of nursing homes.  She started her project by interviewing her grandmother in the “Dining Room” of the facility in which she lives in Mebane, North Carolina. As Miller writes,“The ‘Dining Room’ had the trappings and decorations that one would expect to fine in a real dining room in a real house, and one could close the door and visit with some privacy.”

“As in my grandmother’s case, a resident may not understand that his or her stay at the nursing home is permanent. And some do not realize they are in a facility, but that doesn’t mean they don’t question where they are. While some residents demonstrate incredible resilience in their ability to personalize their space and create a home, others experience a profound sense of loss and isolation.”

Madeline plans to interview nursing facility residents and staff, as well as older people who are still living in their own homes and communities. With her audio documentary, Miller hopes to capture the challenges faced by the elderly as they transition to institutional care facilities, “where many Americans will live out their last years.”

Jacob Tobia (Duke University)
Oral history and photography: The LGBT Community in South Africa

In 1996, South Africa became the first nation in the world whose constitution protected citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. When marriage equality followed in 2005, in the minds of many, South Africa lived up to its reputation as the ‘Rainbow Nation,” by establishing full legal equality for LGBT people,” Jacob Tobia writes.

Jacob  is interested in documenting, through photography and oral histories, the complications inherent in this story—the racial and class tensions that persist and how different the experiences of low-income, black LGBT South Africans are from their upper-class, white counterparts. He hopes that in “collecting the histories of LGBT-identified South Africans across racial and class boundaries” he will better understand how difference impacts the LGBT community. “What are the limits of understanding and tolerance between LGBT people? What are the limits of legal equality, and how did the pursuit and attainment of legal equality shape divisions and unities within the community?”

With this project, Jacob hopes “to make intellectual and ethical contributions not only to South African history but also to the broader LGBT community, in the United States and abroad.” He plans to create a manuscript suitable for publication, a website, and an exhibit that combines his oral history interviews and photographic portraits.

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