(April 26, 2012, Winston-Salem, N.C.) The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and members of its Campus Consortium group has awarded a student fellowship to Wake Forest University junior Yasmin Bendaas. The $2,000 grant will enable her to travel to the Aures Mountains of northern Algeria in May to research the vanishing cultural tradition of women’s facial tattoos.
Bendaas, an anthropology major with a double minor in journalism and Middle East and South Asia studies from Winston-Salem, N.C., will use video to help her research the facial tattoos of elderly women of the Chaouia, an indigenous group and tell their stories — an interest sparked by three family visits to Algeria during her childhood.
“My grandmother has these tattoos on her face,” Bendaas said. “I noticed a year or so ago during my last visit, that only elderly women had them and I was seeing fewer women with the tattoos than when I visited as a child. None of my aunts have it, none of my cousins. I’m curious why it’s a tradition and why it seems to be going away. I want to tell the story before they disappear entirely.”
Bendaas is the first student from Wake Forest University to win this fellowship from the Pulitzer Center. This year, the University joined the Center’s Campus Consortium, which aids and promotes foreign correspondents and overseas reporting.
“These kinds of stories in many ways aren’t being done today the way they were even five years ago because of budget cuts at newspapers and television stations,” said Justin Catanoso, director of the journalism program at Wake Forest. “Part of the purpose for the fellowship is to increase the pool of prospective foreign correspondents. We’re really excited that Yasmin Bendaas is our first Pulitzer fellow. She’s smart and curious and has a world view from her own background and her own ethnic heritage that makes her an ideal foreign correspondent.”
Bendaas said her father is Algerian and her mother is Iranian, and she holds dual U.S. and Algerian citizenship, but has lived her life in Winston-Salem. She will spend about two months videotaping women with tattoos and interviewing them with an interpreter in a town about two hours away from the Mediterranean. She said this is her first big research project.
“I like the idea that you are learning from people constantly,” Bendaas said. “Through anthropology, I have learned not to interpret someone’s culture or identity through my own background, but rather to view their lives as unique to their own experiences. Seeing people interact this way also helps with my focus on journalism and telling great stories without filters.”
About Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. Learn more about Wake Forest at www.wfu.edu.