Jonathan Smith MPH '11
South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana
If you asked me last spring what I planned for the summer, I probably would have regurgitated my grant proposal’s abstract: I was planning a research project investigating tuberculosis (TB) and HIV vulnerabilities in the migrant population of South Africa. If you were lucky, I may have hinted at filming. However, armed with a camera, a research proposal and the support of my advisors, my summer turned out to be much more than I expected. I worked with Dr. Jhumka Gupta to investigate how contextual factors influence HIV and TB vulnerabilities among migrant laborers, specifically gold miners, and to investigate the health impact this oscillation had on the spread of TB and HIV coinfection in southern Africa. Driven by the neglect of human rights and the exploitation of labor in the gold mining industry, I also worked diligently on a documentary—They Go to Die—which investigates the health outcomes of miners released from the industry with no health infrastructure or health care. The film juxtaposes mining executives’ with coinfected miners who are struggling to stay alive, fusing my research with film and putting a human face on the situation. This film will become my thesis and my hope is that it will bring relevant, real-life experience to academic discourse and make my findings more accessible to the public. Since my research involved migrant labor, I spent the summer traveling between South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland to organize interviews, find ex-miners and do my research. Though it was unpredictable and hectic at times, it was equally rewarding to experience a variety of rich cultures and generous people. This experience greatly enhanced both my personal life and educational career.
Jonathan Smith - South Africa 2010
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- While driving through one of the many game reserves in South Africa, a male albino lion walked in front of our car, paused and roared.
- Overlooking one of the ubiquitous ‘informal settlements’ of South Africa. The spread of tuberculosis and HIV are rampant here and the population I worked with primarily lived in these settings.
- While filming my documentary in Botswana, I took a break to adjust the camera’s settings before filming. I rented a bicycle to move more quickly from settlement to settlement.
- “I play like Ronaldo!” After their soccer game in Botswana, kids gathered to watch themselves on film. During the 2010 World Cup, soccer was an important part of their lives.
- Balancing my camera on the ledge, I try to capture the scenery of an informal settlement: the bent metal that my camera is pointing at is a child’s ‘bedroom.’
- Local boys show both their camaraderie and youthful spirit. I found the children to be joyful and high-spirited regardless of their surroundings.
- A mother (not pictured) lines up her children to be included in my documentary. Contrary to what I expected, the people were inviting and wanted nothing in return.
- I finally made it to a gold mine and am very confused where to go. Because gold is found in ‘ribbons’ underground, gold mines are large, hectare-size complexes complete with golf courses, residences and their own informal settlements.
- Distracted from the game, the team’s young goalkeeper pauses to explain that he “is the best on the team.” Shortly after this photo was taken, he made an incredible diving save, backing up his boast.
- On the streets of Soweto, a child tries to grab the camera. Once successful, he enjoyed capturing a flurry of arbitrary photos.
- Talking with the HIV/AIDS coordinator from the Mercy Clinic, we discuss research strategies and how to access the migrant population.
- Nervously, I glance over for a photo before my guest lecture on human rights and tuberculosis at the University of Pretoria. Three hours after this presentation, I boarded my flight to the United States.
- A snapshot of my office. When I wasn’t in the settlements, I was working here. Instead of arranging it for a photo, I decided to depict its authenticity: two computers, two phones and papers everywhere.
- With Paula Akugizibwe, who works with the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA). I interviewed her for my documentary on tuberculosis and HIV in the gold mining industry.
- In a wider shot of the film set, Paula and I discuss the direction of the documentary and the types of questions that she will be asked.
- Lynne Mabote, a tuberculosis and human rights activist, laughs as we take a break from the interview. Lynne highlighted the need for stronger cross-border integration of tuberculosis and HIV care for released mineworkers.
- Go USA! At the 2010 World Cup, I prepare to cheer on the United States in its match against Slovenia. I was fortunate enough to have seats only six rows back!
- The stands are packed as the United States take on Algeria. The U.S. won in the last minute and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
- At a local nature reserve I was able to enter the lion’s den and see them face-to-face (albeit they were cubs).