Kate Cummings

Kate Cummings (Vital Voices in Kenya): Kate was born in the North Carolina mountains, and received her BFA in photography at Sewanee (The University of the South) in 2004. Kate co-founded a meditation group at the Hampshire County Jail in North Carolina where she led meditation sessions with inmates each week. Upon graduation, Kate was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. This allowed her to spend a year photographing in India, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and France. During this year, she photographed Zen Master and international peacemaker Thich Nhat Hanh's first return to Vietnam since his exile 39 years before. Her images were published internationally. She returned to Vietnam in 2007 with Nhat Hanh and his International Peace Delegation to photograph healing ceremonies. Kate moved to western Massachusetts and began teaching photography to at-risk girls. At the time of her fellowship, Kate was studying for her master’s degree at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston. After her fellowship, Kate wrote: “Best experience? This is an impossible question! I think, that by spending so much time with Kenyans in their homes and families and in the community setting… I gained a deep understanding of their successes and their significant challenges...I look at myself now as having the potential to be as strong and caring as the amazing women I met in Kenya.”

Back in town! But first, a belated video

22 Jun

Just returned from the dusty wilds of northern Kenya, I’m now back to electricity, palatable water, and you.  I was not absent, I promise.  Before I get into it (and there’s plenty to get into), here’s a video I was supposed to publish last month.  It’s an interview about my expectations for the summer.  Already, it feels like watching home videos of your childhood — what you were like before — but it’s a part of this storyline and so deserves a place.  Click on the link below and it will take you to me, pre-Kenya.  And you need hardly wait for more about my trip to Samburu-land –that’s just around the corner.


Video by Kate Cummings, 2009 AP Fellow. Location: Washington, DC. Partner: Vital Voices.

Posted By Kate Cummings

Posted Jun 22nd, 2009


  • mangoland

    June 22, 2009



    the video makes it so real, your distance and your closeness, the image and the reality. please share more with the background of the milk and blood and samburu: i’m excited what we can learn from the contrast.

    how is the resilience? how is their spirit? what is their attitude toward their future?

    • Kate Cummings

      July 8, 2009


      Mangoland, we have mangoes here, too. I do not know if they are as luscious as where you hail from, but they are a soothing nectar for me when I return from longs days out in the field. The milk and blood of the Samburu diet comes from their nomadic history. Their possessions are few, but certainly include many cattle, and some goats, sheep. Since this is normally all they have for food in the extremely arid climate of Northern Kenya, what comes from the animals determines breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their resilience? Remarkable. The Samburu women I lived with made their strength and recovery from difficulty seem natural – almost without effort (although we know it takes so much of their energy). Their spirits are burdened by external circumstances and abuses suffered from their former partners, and these weights are evident in their company – but this is not the dominant characteristic of their spirit – their warmth, their commitment to their community, their forgiving nature that makes you feel like a friend and never a stranger: these are the strongest qualities of Umoja spirit. The future is determined by this even more, I would say, than their external circumstances.

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