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1st Place

Fire from Scratch

Jessica Zhou, Colorado College

Tanzania: Ecology & Human Origins, Fall 2017


"The indigenous Maasai of Tanzania are masters of the savannah and utilize its resources in every aspect of their lifestyle. In preparation of a ritual called Orpul that involves the slaughtering of a goat, a fire must be started from scratch and herbs must be gathered. Creating the first flame requires an incredible amount of power—the friction of wood against wood. Once the first ember has sparked, dry donkey dung houses and stimulates its growing strength. Depicted is the beginnings of the fire for Orpul, being carefully protected and nurtured."



Q&A with Jessica Zhou, 1st Place Winner

Did you often take photos in Tanzania? If so, how do you think taking photos impacted your program experience?

I did find myself taking a lot of photos while in Tanzania, which to me was an interesting artistic exploration. Outside of cities, a lot of the Tanzanian landscape we visited consisted of primarily yellow-brown savannah grasslands, which is not the kind of thing I’m used to photographing. I pushed myself to figure out specifically what details made this unfamiliar landscape unique and beautiful, and tried to capture this in my images. I think that in taking photos while studying in Tanzania, and in paying attention to these small yet vital details, my study abroad experience as a whole was enriched greatly.  

What were some of the highlights of studying in the field for you – academically, personally, and in experiencing Tanzania and Africa? 

The field practicum experience was my favorite part of the program. Having seen the parks at the beginning of the program (on safari), returning to Tarangire National Park near the end of the program, when everything was just about to bloom, was really cool. As we conducted our field study there, we got to see the world around us turn from yellow to green, day by day. As an aspiring conservation biologist, I found this experience of getting to walk around Tarangire and see organismal interactions at a thrilling and unconventional distance, all while finding the answers to questions I’d held since the first day of safari, incomparable.

Since you've returned from the program, have you been glad that you took photos while you were there? Is there a photo that you wish you had taken – a moment you wish you had captured – while you were off campus?

I have only recently gone through the mass of photos I took while abroad, and I’m truly glad that I did dedicate part of my study abroad experience to photography. I’ve had a lot of fun reliving fond memories and reminiscing beautiful places through these images. While there are always special moments I wish I’d captured with my lens, these are often the moments that are captured best by memory. 

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