How do you remember a loved one you never met? Asked how he observes the death anniversary of a father whose life was claimed by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Eugene Uwimana, 29, has a number of thoughtful suggestions. ALSO READ: Exploring the role of pictures in preserving memory of Genocide victims He visits the derelict house where his parents formerly lived and questions the neighbours who knew his father about, say, the entry and the living room – to maybe envision where his dad used to lounge and feel connected to him. Or perhaps going to the acreage his father once owned, which is now covered with trees. Or, more sentimentally, keeping the commitments his father made to his mother while he was courting her, as well as looking after his relatives. But Uwimana doesn’t believe these are enough. “I wish I had photos of my dad,” he said over a cup of tea. His father, like many Tutsi who were fleeing Rwanda during the genocide, had been nabbed off the streets, taken from their homes by Interahamwe and other civilian genocidal militia, crammed into corners (churches and bushes) to be slaughtered, and for many Tutsi women, raped, some to death. ALSO READ: PHOTOS: Exhibition on 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi launched in Senegal Eugene Kayijuka, 27, who was especially fond of pictures, had packed all of his collection in the pockets of his wedding suit, which he was wearing when he was murdered. A shame. This endearing act of his meant that his son, Uwimana, was left with no memorabilia of his dad. Why did not being in possession of a single photo affect him so deeply? To respond to that query, Uwimana delves into his early years. “As a child, I held out hope that he was still alive somewhere for years after the Genocide. I used to try to find my dad in every man I met. I don’t know him, I don’t know what he looks like, they don’t know where his body was discarded,” he admitted, clearly shaken. “Simple grief would be comforting. I am hollowed out with impotent rage instead; what a miserable way to die,” he added, bringing the conversation to a close. Drawing on the Kigali Genocide Memorial site, Maurice Mugabowagahunde, the Executive Director of Research and Policy Development at the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE), explained why he believes photography is such an essential component of human history. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Besides providing a dignified place of burial for victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi, the Memorial’s primary objectives also include providing a documentation centre to record evidence of the genocide, testimonies of genocide survivors and details of genocide victims. ALSO READ: PHOTOS: Rwandan envoy says sharing stories about 1994 genocide a solemn task “These classic pictures, along with many others, have a significant impact on how history is shaped. They help us build opinions that will help us make wiser decisions in the future. In addition to documenting the past, photography has the power to alter the course of history,” Mugabowagahunde said. The power of documentation lies in its ability to provide proof of existence, which is crucial for assimilating loss. Many Rwandans who kindly shared their photo albums did so in order to preserve a nostalgic memento of happier days. Both human and technological memories have their limitations. However, by sharing them, as the memorial site poignantly illustrates, we can unearth them all over again. Even while the imagery and ideas in the memorial site’s galleries may not be your own, the emotions they arouse are likely to be. A case in point: a woman called Fiona Ashimwe, 29, recalls how she felt when seeing pictures of her extended family that were taken before the Genocide. Her parents would wax poetic over welcoming their large family when she was born. Although hearing their tales sparked her imagination, the only way she had ever physically interacted with them was through their photographs. Ashimwe particularly remembers this one where her two aunts, Mignonne and Magnifique, carried her when she was two weeks old. “This photograph was taken by my mother herself; she had a little camera and was constantly taking photos. I don’t remember ever meeting them but I have their faces engraved in my memory.” Not just actual photographs, but possibly digital ones as well. A little over three weeks ago, 29 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Ange Iliza saw her great-grandfather for the first time; an old portrait of him that her aunt had copied off a distant relative’s Facebook page. Iliza was aware that her father’s family suffered a great deal during the Genocide, but had never overheard them address the circumstances. She looked at this picture and was fascinated. Iliza takes on an affectionate tone when recounting this experience. “The screenshot was a gift; what was private, unsaid, and hidden blossomed into what was known and recorded. My great grandfather, dead before possibilities of my conception, existed, and was remembered,” she said. “When I saw this picture. I began to wonder how they looked, what they liked, and whether they struggled. I have so many questions about how they lived and how they died. Sadly, I don’t have any answers,” she said, but at least she has this photo. An example is The Holocaust, where a girl’s diary was used to make a movie about her experience during this time through Instagram stories. She was an avid journaler, so the book is a work of art as well as history. Though it may be tempting to criticise such album displays of the dead, they offer one of the most effective visual representations of silences that still reverberate from the Genocide era. They encourage us to inquire about the plot points that are yet unresolved. This leads us inexorably to the last crucial point about photographs; they authenticate. They legitimise events and contribute to a broader visual and historical perspective. Pictures are the present’s eyes into the past, as the adage ‘seeing is believing’ goes. Every year, during the commemoration, those pictures are brought out. The living family of Ashimwe and Iliza likely came to the uncertain conclusion that most of what they remembered about their deceased relatives was a figment of their minds. Now they are looking at their lost loved ones and feeling the awe of family generations through time. Our lives are tales, and frequently, photos hold the seeds of those stories. We remember. These people existed; they were here; they are here still.