HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 3, 2006) – Stunning images of survival and a new beginning for children from Rwanda in the years after the 1994 genocide there are the subjects of a new photo exhibition opening this September at Holocaust Museum Houston.
“Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project” is an award-winning photography project that has been exhibited at other prestigious venues such as the United Nations, the Los Angeles and New York premieres of the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” at the U.S. Senate Building in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and at venues in Canada and Europe.
What is so unusual about the exhibit is that the photos included all were taken by children – survivors and orphans of the Rwandan genocide – most of whom never saw a camera before the project started.
“Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project” will be on view at Holocaust Museum Houston, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District from Sept. 15, 2006, through Feb. 18, 2007. A special opening reception will be held at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, with Rwanda Project coordinator and award-winning photojournalist Kristen Ashburn, who has been working with the children in Rwanda and who will talk about her experiences there. Admission is always free.
“Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project” is the culmination of six years of photographic workshops with children living at the Imbabazi Orphanage in Rwanda. A dedicated group of Americans have traveled to Rwanda each year since 2000 and taught children from the Imbabazi Orphanage photography skills. Now, the children’s work is being shown in a world-wide exhibit that illustrates their lives today, as seen through their own eyes. The project, which was founded in 2000 by the late David Jiranek (1958-2003), is carried on in his memory by a group of dedicated friends and family.
A photographer, businessman and philanthropist, Jiranek began the photographic workshop in 2000 after traveling to Rwanda and, by chance, meeting the children at the orphanage. The children were intrigued by David’s camera and photos. But, Jiranek found he could not accurately capture the children’s world in Rwanda, and inspired by and centered on the importance of the children’s perspective and experience, he gave the children disposable cameras to document their own world and to capture their hopes, fears and dreams. The children in the workshops, ranging in age eight to 18, began photographing themselves and their community.
The resulting photographs are nothing short of extraordinary. A photograph entitled “Gadi at the Market” won first prize in portraiture in the 2001 Camera Arts Magazine Photo Contest and was taken by Jacqueline, who in 2000 was only eight years old. She won in the adult category. This past December, in the most recent workshop, the children were given digital cameras for the first time, and the resulting images are newly added to the exhibition.
In addition to the exhibitions, the web site www.RwandaProject.org is being re-launched this fall with the new images and a book is in progress that will showcase the children's photographs and tell their life stories behind the lens.
“The goal of this project is to share with the world the perspective of the children, to provide an opportunity to reflect on the tragedy of the genocide by observing life today through the eyes of Rwanda’s children,” said Joanne McKinney. “Additionally, the project aims to demonstrate to the children of the Imbabazi Orphanage that they have something to share with the world that is meaningful.
Through the sale of their photographs, the children receive that message, as well as the means to continue their photography and their education."
For each tax-deductible contribution of $100 to The Rwanda Project via its Web site, supporters can receive a photograph of their choice from the exhibit. Funds received are used for future photographic projects, exhibitions and for the education of the children at the Imbabazi Orphanage.
Many of the children that participate in the “Through the Eyes of Children” photography project are both Hutu and Tutsi and were injured and orphaned by the 1994 genocide. Today, images continue to play a key part in the memory of the injustices that occurred. Not only has photography served as a major strategy for documenting the atrocity, but it has also been used as a way to reunite children with their families. However, the power of the camera has rarely been in the hands of those affected the most. While many now know about the genocide, most do not fully understand its magnitude. In a mere 100 days, while the world stood by, more than 800,000 people were killed, and the slaughter resulted in millions of refugees and orphaned children.
Underwriters of the Houston exhibition include Nina and Michael Zilkha, Nina and Michael Zilkha Endowment Fund, and Houston Endowment Inc., with special thanks to Continental Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston. The program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
To learn more about Holocaust Museum Houston, visit www.hmh.org or call 713-942-8000.
To learn more about The Rwanda Project, visit www.RwandaProject.org.