The exhibitions program at the Center for Documentary Studies presents images, documents, sound, and written experiences in four galleries that serve as a community forum for documentary work, making the documentary arts accessible to a general audience and presenting experiences that inform, heighten our historical and cultural awareness, create discourse, foster understanding, and confront traditional views of “others.”

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The Jemima Code

September 22–November 5, 2016
Reception, Artist's Talk, and Book Signing: Thursday, October 20, 
 6–9 p.m.
Kreps and Lyndhurst Galleries
1317 W. Pettigrew St.
Durham, NC  27707

code / noun : 1. a system used for brevity or secrecy of communication, in which arbitrarily chosen words, letters, or symbols are assigned definite meanings.  2.  a word, letter, number, or other symbol used in a code system to mark, represent, or identify something.  3.  a system for communication in which long and short sounds, light flashes, etc., are used to symbolize the content of a message

Women of African descent have contributed to America’s food culture for centuries, but their rich and varied involvement and expertise is still overshadowed by the demeaning stereotype of an illiterate “Aunt Jemima” who cooked mostly by natural instinct. Culinary journalist Toni Tipton-Martin spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, seeking to discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially southern, cuisine, and to reclaim their skills and knowledge from this culinary caricature.

Tipton-Martin’s Jemima Code exhibition at the Center for Documentary Studies (September 22–November 5, 2016) features the first known photographs of African American cooks (scroll down for a slideshow) taken by photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) along with interactive installments, cookbooks, and other related ephemera. The exhibit builds upon her award-winning book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbookswhich offers firsthand evidence of African American cooks' impact on American food, families, and communities.

“The Jemima Code is a 200-year-old practice of using the image of the plantation mammy to symbolize and misrepresent the knowledge, skills, and abilities of African American cooks,” writes Tipton-Martin. “The book [winner of a 2016 James Beard Foundation award] and this installation honor these (mostly) women who nourished generations of American families with meals prepared at the fireside hearth. . . . When we embrace their gifts of dignity, courage, and perseverance, we too are inspired to keep the hearth fires burning.”

In addition to the book and traveling exhibition, Tipton-Martin continues the Jemima Code project with a website and blog, through which she “puts on the aprons of these authors, cooks their recipes, and tinkers with the tools they used in search of answers to [essential] questions.”

Toni Tipton-Martin is a culinary journalist, educator, and community activist. She founded the SANDE Youth Project, a nonprofit organization that uses cultural heritage, organic gardening, basic cooking skills, and nutrition to improve lives. Tipton-Martin is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Foodways Texas, a contributing editor to Heart and Soul Magazine, and a cookbook author. She also is part of a grassroots peace movement that is rekindling the pie social as a vehicle for community building.

The October 20 event is a co-presentation with Duke's Forum for Scholars and Publics.

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Beyond The Front Porch 2016

Exhibition Dates: May 1October 1, 2016
Project Presentations and BBQ: Sunday, May 1, 2:30-5 PM
Center for Documentary Studies, University Gallery
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina

This exhibit features the final projects of six college seniors who will graduate with a CDS Certificate in Documentary Studies. Below are words from the seminar instructor, Alex Harris. Click here to see more information on the students and their projects.

Students in the Documentary Capstone Seminar have the spring semester of their senior year to complete a photographic, video, audio, or multimedia project that is meant to be the culmination of their course work at the Center for Documentary Studies and their four years at Duke (and in one case, UNC–Chapel Hill). This year's class has shown what former Duke President Terry Sanford coined over three decades ago as the unofficial University motto: outrageous ambitions! They are tackling projects —like womanhood at Duke, forming a non-traditional family, the essence of Quaker thought and life, the idea of beauty in relation to aging— that might be reasonable to complete if these students weren't also enrolled in three or four other courses, weren't also involved in various local and national causes, and weren't also taking the time to maintain Duke friendships that will last some for the rest of their lives. 

In completing these capstone projects, students are showing the one quality that is most difficult to achieve for any documentary artist bombarded with life’s daily distractions alongside news of huge and complex problems facing society: they are taking themselves and their own work seriously. This is the quality they will need in order to move beyond university life, to remain aware of the big picture, while maintaining focus on particular subjects and issues they themselves consider to be of vital importance. —Alex Harris, Duke Professor of the Practice of Public Policy and Documentary Studies

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How Do We Heal?

May 1October 10, 2016
Center for Documentary Studies, Porch Gallery
1317 W. Pettigrew St., Durham, North Carolina

“In an endless sea of opportunities, we can either sink or swim. At Duke, I’ve done both. Over the past two years, in order to help me cope with difficult issues in my own life, I sought out a broad range of Duke women to talk about their own experiences dealing with trauma,” says Zhang. “Through the process, this project transformed from an exhibit about trauma to an exhibit about healing. You’ll notice that none of the portraits have captions and that’s because captions could never sufficiently describe who these women are. It is my hope that you will take the time today to meditate on each portrait in order to get a sense of the strength, beauty, and complexity, of these women.”

“The RIPP Fellowship has helped me grow immensely as an artist through the incredible mentorship and community support,” says Zhang. “The RIPP Fellowship allowed me to pursue what I loved, which is storytelling and connecting with others. With the help of Alex, I was better able to frame my work to deliver my intended message. I learned how to make a cohesive body of work and refine my artistic vision. Seeing the process from beginning to end has been unbelievable and inspires me to keep creating.”

The exhibition and public forum are supported by the RIPP Fellowships in the Documentary Arts.

CDS Gallery Fall Hours

Monday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m
Friday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday: closed

On occasion, the galleries are closed for installation, maintenance, and university scheduling considerations. Visitors might wish to call 919.660.3663 before they make a special trip to see an exhibition, to ensure that the galleries are open. 
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