Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day 9 - Nizhoni (Beautiful)

Nizhoni is the Navajo word for "beautiful." While there is no exact translation to English words, Nizhoni generally refers to inner beauty, and the peace that comes from living in balance with nature and others, with mutual respect for the well-being of everyone and everything.

This word is a great descriptor for how the students and faculty of the 2011 Navajo Oral History project feel today (Tuesday, June 14, 2011). We've been working on our documentary journalism projects for just over a week now, and the pieces are coming together.

Having helped lead this project for three years now, I have seen many examples of the principles of Nizhoni and Hozho (living in harmony with nature) at work. Things happen for a reason. Even sad and difficult events generally have a purpose of testing, strengthening, or teaching.

Today began with a class session during which each student work team showed samples of their work so far and discussed what materials they still need to gather this week. Each group talked about how excellent their interviews with Navajo elders were going.

Each group had some challenges to overcome: scheduling interviews, lighting or audio concerns, equipment malfunctions, and the like. And, like true professionals, each group found ways to get good interviews that they can use to help tell their Navajo elder's stories effectively, and with respect for the person and the culture.

The second half of the class period involved a tutorial on using audio gathering hardware, narration technique, and audio software and editing tools. The class also included a short tutorial on quick and easy ways to edit and improve photos using Photoshop software.

After lunch, a group of students and I went to Keith Little's home in Crystal, New Mexico, to build a raised walkway ramp between two parts of his home. This walkway, will allow better accessibility for Keith to get around his home while he is in a wheelchair.

In the middle of the project we had to drive about 45 minutes to Window Rock to the hardware store for some materials, then back to finish the job. The result was a very useful ramp that Keith really appreciated. His wife, Nellie, kept saying "Nizhoni, Nizhoni, Nizhoni...."

The team who worked on the project-- Robbie Christiano, Dave Dvorak, Tom Grier, Tashina Johnson, and Michael Ruka-- were proud to do this simple task for Keith Little, a decorated war hero, to make his life better.

(The space for the ramp... Before.)

(Michael Ruka, project foreman, measuring before lumber is cut. Measure twice -- cut once.)

(Dave Dvorak cutting a length of lumber with help from Robbie Christiano and Michael Ruka, whileTashina Johnson supervises.)

(Tashina Johnson and Robbie Christiano cutting lumber to length for the project.)

(Tom Grier and Robbie Christiano preparing one of the ramp supports. Photo by Tashina Johnson)

(Tashina Johnson nailing the ramp to support cross pieces.)

(Michael Ruka, Robbie Christiano and Dave Dvorak putting the ramp in place.)

(Robbie Christiano, Dave Dvorak, Michael Ruka and Tashina Johnson testing the strength of the ramp.)

(Keith and Nellie Little trying out the new ramp.)

(Keith Little and the Ramp Work Crew.)

In the evening, the students were hard at work on their projects: transcribing the interviews with the elders, reviewing and selecting still photographs, and getting started on editing sections of the video interviews.

(Dave Dvorak)

(Alex Fisher)

(Tashina Johnson, right, gets help from her friend Roberta Wagner, who is helping even though she's not in our class. )

(Molly Golden)

(Josh Averbeck and Robbie Christiano)

(Michael Ruka and Alyssa Reimers)

On Wednesday, the groups will be out in the field again to finish their interviews and to gather b-roll video to add visual interest to their projects.

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