Written by Kurt Moore of The Marion Star
Published April 19, 2013
MARION — Apartheid had just ended the last time Carol Boram-Hays traveled to South Africa.
Now a history of art lecturer at The Ohio State University at Marion, Boram-Hays had been working on her doctorate when she took the 1997 trip. She had been studying the Zulu language and saw South Africa as a new research area just opening up three years after the country had its first democratic election.
She will be returning to do more research thanks to the federal Fulbright Scholar Program, an international exchange program. It is meant to foster a mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.
Boram-Hays is one of nine Ohio State University faculty members this year to receive Fulbright Scholar grants. About 1,100 faculty and professionals travel abroad each year through the Fulbright Scholar Program, administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see how things changed,” she said.
Boram-Hays studied Zulu beadworking during her first research trip. There were stories in the beads used and how they were arranged, stories that came out as they talked through an interpreter about their courting days and their personal relationships.
“A lot of people get very emotional,” she said. “They do begin to get emotional about their past.”
This time she will continue to study the artwork and teach classes at the University of Witwattersrand in Johannesburg. She also plans to help organize an exhibition and produce a book. Work that doesn’t get done while there may continue when she returns.
She wants to get a chance to learn more about the patterns behind the beadwork and what they mean.
While she previously studied in the city of Durbin, she’s kept in touch with some of her contacts and hopes to see them again.
There is a bittersweet side to her planned trip.
“You feel very privileged but there’s also an urgency as well,” Boram-Hays said. “So much of this information is disappearing as people die. There’s knowledge that may have already been lost.”
The older Zulu women are the “keepers of this knowledge.”
“After apartheid these practices went by the wayside,” Boram-Hays said.
“A lot more opportunities opened up for women.”
Many of the younger women pursued other activities and did not get as heavily involved in the beadwork, she said.
They often stand with her as she watches the older women do their beadwork and share their stories.
Her research project will be titled “Art, Power and Zulu Beadwork: A Collaboration with the University of Witwattersrand.”
Her planning has already started, thanks to the Internet, but she said the research she’ll be able to do on site is work that she can’t do online or from here. She will be going into rural areas of South Africa where few may be connected to the Internet.
“It’s new ways of understanding the world,” she said as she discussed the joy of sharing this knowledge with others. “I think that adds to the richness of how we look at the world.”