Gadi at the Market by Jacqueline (age 8), 2000; courtesy Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project — this photograph won first prize – Portraiture in the 2001 Camera Arts magazine photo contest (in the adult category). It was taken with the first roll of film ever used by then eight year-old Jacqueline.
Dancing by Gadi (age 14), 2005; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project Dancing by Gadi (age 14), 2005; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project
Collecting Firewood by Gasore (age unknown), 2005; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project
Woman Smiling by Musa (age 14), 2005; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project Woman Smiling by Musa (age 14), 2005; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project
Yellow Soccer by Elizabeth (age 13), 2000; courtesy of Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project
A country roughly the size of Massachusetts and located in central Africa, Rwanda was the site of one of the most horrible events in history. As a result of ethnic clashes between the Hutu and Tutsi populations, the 1994 genocide left nearly 1 million people dead in approximately 100 days and caused the flight of 2 million internally displaced persons and 2 million refugees.
The Rwanda Project began in 2000, conceived by photographer David Jiranek as a four-week photographic workshop inspired by and centered on the importance of the children’s perspective and experience.
Children ranging in age from eight to 18 were given disposable cameras to photograph themselves and their community. The exhibit is the result of continuing photographic workshops for children who live at the Imbabazi Orphanage in Gisenyi, Rwanda.
The Imbabazi Orphanage,on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, was once the main crossing for both the exodus and re-entry of Rwandans during and after the genocide. It is also the site of some of the most violent insurgencies since the genocide.
Imbabazi, which translates loosely to “a mother’s love” from Kinyarwanda, is now home to children who witnessed their parent’s deaths and were left without family or hope for the future.
The Web site, www.rwandaproject.org, provides more opportunities to view the work of the children, read about their lives and to help. All financial proceeds go directly to the education costs of the children and to fund future photo workshops via a nonprofit foundation established specifically for that purpose.
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.