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Stanford University

Geballe Winners

Geballe Prize 2020

Meet The Winners And Their Submissions

Stanford students are at the heart of the Cantor. Through their eloquent writing, we are able to approach the collection through fresh eyes. The 2020 Geballe Prize for Writing is an honor that recognizes outstanding undergraduate student prose and poetry related to works of art in the Cantor Arts Center collection.

Indicative of the strength of this year’s submissions, a jury awarded four prizes of $750 each in three categories:

  • Creative Prose
  • Poetry
  • Essay

The Geballe Prize is made possible by the Geballe Fund for Academic Initiatives in the Cantor Arts Center.

You can find the winning submissions in all three categories below.

Winner, Creative Prose Category

Geballe Prize Winner 2020 | pygmalion.exe

Ananya Nrusimha, Class of 2020


A science fiction short story inspired by Ansel Adams’ Surf Sequence #4.

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Through the Cantor’s exhibits and events, I have experienced world-class art that has informed and inspired my own creative endeavors. I’m truly grateful for the opportunities the Cantor has given me to learn and grow as an artist.--Ananya Nrusimha, '20

Winners, Poetry Category

Geballe Prize Winner 2020 | ushabti

Imani Nothando, Class of 2021


A poem inspired by ushabti, or ancient Egyptian funerary figures.

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"The ushabtis in the African Arts exhibition drew me in with their beauty and left me curious about their meaning. Upon learning that ushabtis took on the work that a person was called to do in the afterlife, I began to think about the potential for rest and healing that this transfer of responsibility could create. I wrote with this figure in mind to think through what it might mean for someone who has been overworked and exploited to pray for that to shift in the afterlife."--Imani Nothando, '21

Geballe Prize Winner 2020 | the way home

Julie Plummer, Class of 2020

the way home

A poem inspired by Helen Levitt’s New York.

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I chose to write about this particular image from Helen Levitt's New York collection (c. 1940) -- two young girls and an older man sharing a playful moment together on a street corner --because I was moved by the spontaneity of the scene --the glee and playfulness of the little girls, the man's content expression, the movement in all of their bodies. Levitt's photograph reminded me of my own experiences as a young girl playing with my sister and my grandfather, and when writing about this picture I tried to capture this shared moment between generations. I loved that the people in the photo are dressed formally, but their body language and facial expressions are so free and joyful --the interaction feels extremely human in its unplanned frivolity.--Julie Plummer, '20

Winner, Essay Category

Geballe Prize Essay Winner 2020 | Of Watery Words and Hidden Meanings: Thinking of a Safavid Magic Bowl as an Object of Mimesis and Innovation

Arman Kassam, Class of 2022

Of Watery Words and Hidden Meanings: Thinking of a Safavid Magic Bowl as an Object of Mimesis and Innovation

An essay exploring an earthenware vessel with astrological designs and encircling script from 16th century Persia.

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“I had the pleasure of stumbling upon a 17th-century Safavid bowl when I was trying to find an artifact to write about for Professor Paula Findlen’s class on historical commodities. In my opinion, this bowl is chock full of mysteries that are yet to be solved, but one of the initial enigmas that really roped me in was the bowl’s script; it was writing that I had never seen before, and having taken a couple quarters of Persian, I knew for sure that it was not any type of Arabic script. Upon further investigation and with the help of peers and other faculty members, I came to the conclusion that the script of the bowl is not legible at all! Like a handful of other pieces in Islamic material culture, this bowl offers deliberately obfuscated writing that may have served to enhance the bowl’s aura of mystery, power, and magic. In the end, what gravitated me to this bowl was not the idea that the mystery of the script had to be solved, but that the mystery of the script may have been the point all along.”--Arman Kassam, '22