[Dateline: New York | Author: iSeek]
Visions of Rwanda, a collection of photographs taken by a group of survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, is now available on the Lessons from Rwanda web site, part of the Outreach Programme run by the Department of Public Information.
These powerful images, taken by 12 first-time photographers who were trained by a UN facilitator, illustrate the hopes, dreams and memories of the participants as well as present aspects of their daily lives. They show a vision of Rwanda today through the eyes of Rwandans themselves, recalling the past while expressing hope for the future.
The participants in the project included orphans, widows, sexual violence survivors, students and a gacaca* court judge, as well as individuals who were responsible for committing harmful acts during the genocide. Some of the subjects portrayed in the photographs include support meetings of survivors, prisoners, memorial sites, children, weddings and burials.
Many of the participants in the Visions of Rwanda project had never used a camera before. However, armed with general photography tips received during the training programme, they chose their own topics to tell their stories.
The web site includes background information about the lives and experiences of some of the participants, which in some cases are interlinked. For example, one participant, Annociata, lost her father in the genocide. Another participant, Jean-Marie, destroyed a store owned by Annociata’s father during the genocide. Jean-Marie, who subsequently served thirteen years in prison and was recently released, has since paid Annociata back for the store and the two are now neighbours.
A selection of the Visions of Rwanda photographs will be developed into a traveling exhibit to be launched in April 2009.
The Lessons from Rwanda project mobilizes civil society for the remembrance of victims of the Rwanda genocide. It educates the public by focusing on the lessons learned of the genocide in order to help prevent similar acts in the future and raises awareness of the lasting impact of genocide on the survivors and the challenges they still face.
*The Rwandan government began implementing a participatory justice system, known as gacaca, (pronounced GA-CHA- CHA) in 2001 in order to address the enormous backlog of cases in the judicial system. Communities elected judges to hear the trials of genocide suspects accused of all crimes except planning of genocide or rape. Those who are accused of looting or murder and who have pleaded guilty receive provisional release and can go home while awaiting trial. Rwanda continues to use the classical national court system to try those involved in planning genocide or rape under normal penal law. Those that are accused of these crimes do not benefit from provisional release. The gacaca courts give lower sentences if the person is repentant and seeks reconciliation with the community. These courts are intended to help the community participate in the process of justice and reconciliation for the country.