29 May 2016 | 17 °C

Rwanda In Photographs: Death Then, Life Now

Rwanda In Photographs: Death Then, Life Now

Think Rwanda, and thoughts immediately turn to the horific genocide that tore the country apart 20 years ago. But this exhibition looks to the present and the future, and how Rwanda has moved on from its past. A dozen African photographers present a varied portfolio of photographs they feel represent Rwanda today.

After a few portraits of people bearing the scars of the past, the show quickly segues into showing how the country has bounced back with shots of local business men and women, including barber shops and a woman standing proudly in front of her brightly coloured clothes store.

Cows have been taken on as a symbol of Rwanda's recovery and there are many pictures of locals with their livestock but the most captivating is a green field of brown longhorn cattle whose layered composition by Yves Manzi makes for a fantastic image.

The photographs are not all positive. Jean Bizima has chosen to highlight the poverty that still exists in the country, and a particularly moving photograph shows a young girl sat alone on a bed in a dark room. Cyril Ndegeya's harrowing photographs show how road traffic accidents remain a frequent cause of death — a mangled motorcycle lies next to a dented truck with a couple of helmets laid aside respectfully.

Each photographer offers their own unique insight into Rwanda, and it comes across as a diverse country. There are some excellent individual photographs yet the stark differences between each portfolio does reduce the cohesion slightly.

Rwanda in Photographs: Death then, Life now is presented by the King's College Cultural Institute and is on in the Inigo Rooms, Somerset House East Wing until 30 April. Entrance is free.

Tabish Khan

Article by Tabish Khan | 856 articles | View Profile | Twitter


The problem is that in a nation slipping toward dictatorship, as Rwanda is doing with Paul Kagame at the helm, Rwandans who stay in Rwanda and not running for their lives elsewhere are often ignorant or afraid to speak out about the atrocities their government is committing. Their story, because of state run media and intimidation, is often full of the lies their government forces them to repeat. Rwandans do not talk about what is going on right now in their country because they are afraid of being killed by their own government. Rosy portrayals of "development" in Rwanda, like this one, ignores the real story of Rwanda, which can not be told without including the extrajudicial killings, imprisonment, and treats toward any and all political opposition. After years in Rwanda, I am more afraid now than ever of the country descending into another blood bath. Khan is forgetting to mention Rwanda's incursions into the DRC costing millions of lives are much more bloody and real than a motorcycle crash image. Please take note, it is irresponsible to talk about Rwanda and not mention the onging mass killings and rapes in the DRC by M23 for minerals and the war crimes of Kagame you are not reporting, you are spreading Rwandan propaganda while missing the biggest story of the decade.