London exhibition depicts Rwanda post-Genocide transformation in pictures

A photo documentary by 10 Rwandan professional and amateur photographers detailing life and progress of Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is currently the centre of attraction at an ongoing exhibition at King’s College London. 
A curator takes a visitor at the exhibition through various pictures depicting lifestyle in Rwanda. (Courtesy)
A curator takes a visitor at the exhibition through various pictures depicting lifestyle in Rwanda. (Courtesy)

A photo documentary by 10 Rwandan professional and amateur photographers detailing life and progress of Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is currently the centre of attraction at an ongoing exhibition at King’s College London. 

The exhibition, which opened last Friday under the theme, “Death then, Life Now,” aims to show the survival, reconciliation and progress in the country after the atrocities through the eyes of Rwandan photographers. 

The exhibition is a culmination of a week-long workshop for photographers in Kigali meant to develop their skills to reduce the tendency of Rwandan stories being told by foreign photojournalists. 

Dr Zoe Norridge, the curator of the exhibition and lecturer of English and Comparative Literature who also writes testimonies and documentaries on genocide at King’s College London, said since the exhibition opened, there has been a lot of reception and visitors are getting to see the other side of Rwanda they had not imagined before. 

“We’ve had an incredibly warm response from the public and the international media, including CNN, UK media, African TV news channels. Visitors have been surprised by the creativity and joyful nature of many of these images,” Dr Norridge said.

“They’ve commented on the different photographic styles and personalities that are immediately apparent in the gallery.”

She said the exhibition would be a chance to have Rwandan photographers tell their own stories as opposed to the past where most images that make it internationally were by non-Rwandans, often leading to a one-sided version of the story.

Totally changed country

“There is a question at the opening of the exhibition: ‘How do you see Rwanda?’ As a curator, I expect visitors will arrive with their own expectations. In the UK, we tend to associate Rwanda with images of genocide or, perhaps, with photographs of Mountain Gorillas,” Dr Norridge said.

“Of course, the country has changed so much over the past 20 years that this single story of Rwanda can no longer hold true.  What I hope is that by the time the visitors leave the exhibition, they would have realised that Rwanda as a country can’t be summarised in a few photographs.” 

She urged Rwandan photographers to take the initiative to tell their own stories and show various aspects of the country.  

“Rwanda is infinitely complex. We need to see more images by Rwandan photographers that show the stories international photographers haven’t yet explored: stories of life in Rwanda today,” Dr Norridge added. 

Among the photographers featured in the exhibition include The New Times photojournalists Timothy Kisambira and John Mbanda.

“Many people come, go and tell a story. At times, it’s a bad story, other times it’s a good one. It is time that we start telling our own story because it is upon us. Rwanda and African as a continent have been portrayed negatively for eons of time, so such exhibitions should help us change the negative perception,” Kisambira said. 

Mussa Uwitonze, a Kigali-based professional photographer working on a photography project, “Through the Eyes of Children,” said featuring in the exhibition had given Rwandan photographers a chance to tell a side of the Rwandan story that was rarely told.

The exhibition, which runs until April 29, tells Rwanda’s recovery story through various art forms, including a documentary and panel discussions.

 

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