Photography exhibition showcases children born during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide
When the Rwandan genocide reached its peak in 1994, it left in its wake many orphaned children – majority of them still too young to comprehend their situations.
Jackues Nkinzingabo was one of them. Now 23 years old and a famous photographer in Rwanda, Nkinzingabo is reminiscing the sad moments of the 1994 genocide through his own photography exhibition dubbed I am a Survivor, which is being held at the Goethe Institut in the capital Kigali. The exhibition started on July 30 and ends on August 4.
Nkinzingabo’s 23 pieces on display are life images of children who were born during or immediately after the genocide, and that number is intended to represent the 23 years since the tide of death swept through Rwanda and left an estimated one million people dead.
The 23 pieces showcase faces of different youthful people, placed inside attractive 29x42cm frames. Nkinzingabo showcases the unsmiling portraits of the genocide survivors, and each face has its own story to be critically evaluated. All the faces reflect the mood of that moment, 23 years ago, and looking at them not only brings back the horrors but also shows the subsequent progressive country that post-genocide Rwanda has become.
Through his lens, Nkinzingabo’s audience is subtly being witness to the trauma suffered by the young victims, some of whom had to spend their childhoods fending for themselves following the demise of their parents.
Nkinzingabo, the co-founder of Kwanda Art Foundation, is determined to tell the story of modern-day Rwanda through the images he captures in different parts of the country. But his is a story of the modern-day Rwanda told through a sad, historic event.
Furthermore, by choosing the victims of the genocide and photographing their sad moments, Nkinzingabo’s intention is to give them a voice and space where they can share their stories. I am a Survivor uses a minimalist form of art where the images are in black and white, and the audience is drawn to look at what each image represents.
Nkinzingabo went around the country to take the photos of those who were born but lost their parents during the genocide so that he could tell their stories through the medium of photography.
“I always tell people that if you want to see the life of people in the country, just go out on the streets. I always want to hear something from people, and get their experience and tell their stories so that others can learn from them,” says the photographer who lost his parents during the genocide when he was only one week old.
According to him, this exhibition is a tribute to his peers who had to experience a difficult life as orphans but through sheer resilience and determination have managed to survive in post-genocide Rwanda, a country that has now shed off the image of its dark past to become a beacon of hope and development.