Using Photography to Heal: The Rwandan Genocide 25 Years Later

By: JOSEPHINE BELLMAN


posted on: September 18th, 2019

25 years on from the Rwandan genocide, three individuals, Gadi, Mussa, and Bizimana are telling the story of how photography has helped heal them. They are now helping other children around the world using photography as a “medicine” to heal from difficult situations.

THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE

In 100 days, an estimated 800, 000 people were killed. Most of the victims were members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group and were killed by the majority Hutu population.

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS FOR ORPHANS

Photography workshops were set up an organization called Through the Eyes of Children, an organization set up by photographer David Jiranek in 2000. They worked with 19 “camera kids” at an orphanage. These children had often never seen or held a camera before. They were taught photography techniques such as lighting, composition (the arrangement of the photo), and stop-motion (the skill of showing movement).

The photos document the healing and rebuilding of Rwanda after the genocide. Photography also had a positive impact on the individuals. As Mussa explains, “We had lost everything; our families, our homes, but through photography, we started creating new memories.”

“For us orphans, we were able to express ourselves and the world could see our photos, our country and the children of it.” The photos have been displayed all around the world and have raised money for children’s clothing, food, and education at the orphanage in Imbabzi.

HEALING THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY

Many of the “camera kids” developed a life-long passion for photography. They have pursued careers in photography for media, events and non-profits in Rwanda. Three of the orphans, Gadi, Mussa, and Bizimana, now lead the “Through the Eyes of Children” workshops.

The workshops have expanded globally. Gadi, Mussa, and Bizimana have taught photography to Haitian immigrant teenagers in New York and foster children in Boston. They will also be travelling to Lebanon later in the year to share their photography craft with Syrian refugees.

Gadi describes that “It’s a great feeling to be able to transfer knowledge to kids in difficult conditions like we used to in. It’s like giving them a medicine for healing. It’s treating them because we know from experience that because of photography, they will be better people”.

TELLING THEIR STORY: “CAMERA KIDS”, A DOCUMENTARY

Gadi, Mussa, and Bizimana are the subjects of a new documentary, “Camera Kids”, to be released in 2020 by GroundTruth Films. They are telling their story and interviewing genocide participants and their families.

Gadi describes how the interviews have shown that Rwanda has healed a lot: “Talking to these perpetrators and survivors, I can see that eventually there has been some kind of reconciliation.”

The filmmaker, Murphy, is inspired by the people of Rwanda. “Making peace with your enemy is one of the most difficult things one can do, and the story of Rwanda can be really something to emulate.”

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