Portrait of a Genocide
Myriam Abdelaziz was invited to the FUTURE MEMORIES Conference in Addis Ababa in September 2014 to talk about her work, especially the series “Portrait of a Genocide”, realised in Rwanda in 2014. This body of work reveals the importance of photography within the process of remembrance of a history that has not yet been approximately analysed, understood and mourned; a photography which at times serves to witness and memorise a complicated past.
As she was unable to attend the conference in Addis Ababa, we invited Myriam Abdelaziz to be part of the online publication. She writes about the series:
The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass extermination of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutu sympathizers in Rwanda and was the largest atrocity during the Rwandan Civil War.This genocide was mostly carried out by two extremist Hutu militia groups, the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, during a period of about 100 days from April 6 through mid-July 1994. At least 500,000 Tutsis and thousands of moderate Hutus were killed during the genocide. Other estimates put the death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000.In the wake of the Rwandan Genocide, the United Nations and the international community drew severe criticism for its inaction. Despite international news media coverage of the unfolding violence, most countries, including France, Belgium, and the United States, declined to intervene or speak out against the massacres. Canada continued to lead the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). However, the UN Security Council did not authorise UNAMIR to intervene or use force to prevent or halt the killing.The genocide ended when a Tutsi-dominated expatriate rebel movement known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame, overthrew the Hutu government and seized power. Fearing reprisals, hundreds of thousands of Hutu and other refugees fled into eastern Zaïre (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). People who had actively participated in the genocide hid among the refugees, fuelling the First and Second Congo Wars. Rivalry between Hutu and Tutsi factions is also a major factor in the Burundi Civil War.While today the massacres are no longer taking place, the legacy of the genocide continues, and the search for justice is a long and arduous one. About 500 people have been sentenced to death, and another 100,000 are still imprisoned. Yet, some of the ringleaders managed to evade capture, while many who lost their loved ones are still waiting for justice.This body of work is a tribute to the survivors who lost everything except their memories.