Zenfolio | Temples of Memory, 2011-2018 | About

About Temples of Memory

Temples of Memory is my attempt to reach the people of the world by combining the visual with the personal. It is a wish to share images of Rwandan churches, schools, and government buildings where thousands were killed in 1994 and now stand as testaments to the abject brutality of the genocide. Instead of functioning religious and civil institutions, these buildings now house shelves with rows of skulls and pews scattered with the clothing of the dead. Sites where killing was carried out include rooms where the bloody cloths of the dead are piled in mounds four and five feet high. In still other cases, buildings have been erected to house museums and cemeteries created for those killed.

Some of the photographs are a result of a reflection of many years. For a long time I ached to take photographs that tied the remains of the victims to our, yours and mine, everyday lives. That, I thought would stir the imagination of the living about individual lives lost in the genocide. While I believe that the piles of broken skeletons and bone can inform one about the vast number of lost lives, I surmised that they could not adequately tell us stories about the lives the victims lived. Many around the world see a wedding ring as a symbol of matrimony. Seeing a stove suggests that sometime today or tomorrow one will have to cook something to eat. In this way the personal belongings of victims represent much more than found objects. They represent life itself.

At the memorials, I sought signs and details to convince myself and others that the victims were human beings, not cockroaches or snakes as the propagandists would have it. In that regard, I carefully observed one belonging after another that the victims left behind as they fled to their final destination, the killing fields.

Furthermore, Temples of Memory is about genocide survivors who struggle to rebuild their lives. We celebrate life as we remember them.  So do not be surprised if, in the near future, you come back to visit and meet portraits and stories of survivors who managed to rebuild their lives against all odds!

But Temples of Memory is also about perpetrators of genocide and mass violence. In case we wish to understand why the did it, we must do our best to  portray fairly their worries, fears, joys and struggle to come back to their former communities.

Now that this exhibit is available here, I hope viewers will organize lectures and seminars; use the exhibition for presentations at universities, churches, synagogues, mosques, state houses and governmental organizations; and discuss the impact formally and informally.

I express my gratitude and appreciation to those interested in this exhibition. I hope very much to hear from you soon.

About the Photographer
I am a Rwandan-Swedish photographer, writer, and researcher. My publications include The Bullet, published in the 2014 edition of Two Third North Magazine (see pp.16-21), with translations in Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Spanish and Portuguese. There is also (with Samuel Totten) We cannot Forget: Interviews with Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, Rutgers University Press, 2011. I have been a member (2011-2015) of The Executive Board of The International Association of Genocide Scholars--IAGS--, and currently a member of IAGS Resolutions Committee, and Co-curator of the Image Banks of IAGS (www.genocidescholars.org). Recently, my good friend Jean Paul Samputu (www.samputumusic.com) released his Album "Only Love", with songs I wrote. These include Intero y'Ineza (Anthem to Goodness) , Nkundira Ugaruke (Please Come Back) , and Timbuktu Mon Amour, You can find more of my poetry here, and my bibliography here.

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