a photographic journal illuminating the plight of Rwandan citizens rebuilding their lives post 1994 genocide, stories of humanity and hope
© carol allen storey
Between April and July 1994, Rwanda witnessed a frenzied 100 days of mass killings, rampant rape and numerous other horrific acts by the Hutu extremist Interahamwe. An estimated one million unarmed Tutsi civilians were slaughtered. This genocide was one of the defining events of the twentieth century. 2014 commemorates the 20th anniversary of this gruesome war.
Since the end of the war, Rwanda and its citizens have made remarkable progress in re-establishing normality. Yet communities across the country remain divided and fragmented, still dealing with the social, psychological and economic impacts of the genocide.
My photographic essay focuses on the daunting task of rebuilding a fractured society through the eyes of the perpetrators, ex-combatants and survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, along with the vulnerable generation of young Rwandans growing up in an atmosphere clouded by conflict. It provides a narrative of their daily personal experiences conquering the challenges in their communities that continue to be divided, within a socio-political landscape that promotes reconciliation and forgiveness as the means to foster a united prosperous modern nation.
My aim was to compose an intimate visual profile of these citizens progressing survival in the aftermath of a brutal war. It illuminates their resilience, indomitable spirit and courage, along with their daily struggles. The photographic approach has not sanitized the critical issues, but has strived to create a balanced outlook from all ‘eyes’. The essay provides a current view of what is happening in the region to provoke debate of the long-term implications of war and the solutions on the ground to rebuild fractured lives.
Most photographic essays illustrating genocide in Rwanda have depicted the victims’ suffering and grief, few in-depth stories have portrayed the actual every day lives of not only the survivors, but from the perpetrator’s vantage and their challenges re-entering society after being incarcerated in jail, or departure from many years in the military. This project strives to illustrate a more inclusive view.
The peace-building INGO, International Alert, commissioned me to undertake the ‘Fractured Lives’ project to illustrate their work in the region. Uniquely, they created a pioneering programme for conflict reconciliation - with the idea that the daunting task of rebuilding the fractured lives post-conflict would have to be holistic – to include all individuals affected by the genocide from the ex-prisoners, combatants, survivors through to young people growing up during the reconstruction of their country. Their programme focuses on uniting a divided fragmented society with an emphasis to address the psychological trauma and the economic void that is omnipresent post conflict.