Irish Writer Rachel Andrews Wins Inaugural CDS Documentary Essay Prize Competition

Rachel Andrews

From the series “Deconstructing the Maze.” Photograph by Dara McGrath © 2008.

The new CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years. The 2013 inaugural prize competition was awarded in writing and went to Cork City, Ireland–based writer and cultural critic Rachel Andrews for her essay “A New Wilderness at the Maze,” in which she explores the meaning of the demolition of Ireland’s Maze prison. The maximum-security facility near Belfast is where paramilitary prisoners were incarcerated during the “Troubles” (1971–2000) and where ten Republican hunger strikers died in 1981.

“I first visited the Maze prison in summer 2007. By then, it was in the middle of being demolished,” says Andrews, “a half-space between what was once the most notorious prison on the island—indeed, within the British Isles—and a vast, 360-acre site yet to be developed, possibly into a soccer stadium. . . .There were no ghostly resonances of the kind I had expected. The walls did not talk. . . . It was the blankness that so staggered me, that contrasted so fully with my expectations of the place, and it was the blankness I wanted to write about.”

Andrews receives $3,000 and will take part in CDS’s upcoming Documentary Writing Speaker Series. Her work will also be placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University. An excerpt from “A New Wilderness at the Maze” will appear in the winter issue of CDS quarterly publication, Document, and the essay in full will be published on our website in early 2014.

Andrews’ work has been published in such literary journals as The Dublin Review, where this essay was first published in a different form (Summer 2010), and in Irish Theatre Magazine, the Dublin Review of Books, the Sunday Business Post, and the Sunday Tribune. (Click here for more information on photographer Dara McGrath and the collaborative project Deconstructing the Maze.)

Honorable Mentions were awarded to Maggie Messitt and Leslie Starobin for their beautifully accomplished essays. Messitt’s explores a rural South African community in the midst of change; it was pulled from her forthcoming book, The Rainy Season— the result of ten months that she spent being immersed in the community and six years of reporting. Starobin’s explores the plight of “displaced Jews from dispersed Jewish communities around the world,” drawing from interviews with relatives, friends, and colleagues “whose lives were profoundly shaped by World War II and its tragic consequences.”

The next CDS Documentary Essay competition will be for photography; submissions will be accepted from November 1, 2013, to February 15, 2014. Click here for guidelines.

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