One of our artists from last year's conference, photographer and filmmaker Julie Thi Underhill, talks about her photographs documenting her familial ties to Cham in Viet Nam on KPFA's APEX Express. Here's a bit more about her body of work from her profile at Lightstalkers, a non-profit on-line photographers' resource:
Born in the U.S. in 1976, Julie Thi Underhill began photographing in 1994. She commenced in 1999 a series on Việt Nam, continued in 2001 while studying the war that joined her Vietnamese Cham-French mother and American father. For Crossing Fire, a forthcoming documentary of postwar healing discussions between Vietnamese and Salvadoran women (Sisters Meeting Sisters delegates,) in 2002 Julie photographed and interviewed women combatants, organizers, and survivors of war in El Salvador. Julie’s oral history of Robert Cagle, an American veteran of the war in Việt Nam, is included in Alex Bloom’s Takin it to the Streets A Sixties Reader. Julie’s war dreams memoir poetry is included in Maxine Hong Kingston’s Veterans of War Veterans of Peace.
During her 2005-06 fellowship with the Joiner Center for the Study of War & Social Consequences at UMass-Boston, Julie examined the cultural survival of the Cham, whose 1,500-year-old Austronesian kingdom preceded the Vietnamese. This work continued a decade of research into the origins and syncretic traditions of her maternal ancestry. In Spring 2006, with family, Julie returned to Phước Lập, Việt Nam to photograph, film, & participate in her Cham grandmother’s Second Burial. In Fall 2007, Julie begins her Master’s and Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, where she’ll focus upon the intersections between Cham historical memory, gender and ethnic identities, spiritual beliefs, and acculturation. As a Chancellor’s Fellow, she’ll also finish editing Second Burial and continue to exhibit her photographs and write memoir essays and poetry.
Although Julie’s series also include portraits and landscapes from Africa, El Salvador, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, her most intimate and cherished work is from her mother’s homeland.