THE ALTAR AT NTARAMA
In 1994, during a period of only one hundred days, approximately one million Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers were killed in Rwanda. Many people fled to nearby churches for refuge, but were often betrayed to the Hutu Militias. At Ntarama Church, approximately 5,000 people who came seeking safety were murdered. As a memorial to the horror of that time, their bodies have been left unburied.
Every Rwandan has a personal story of grief and trauma from the Genocide. On the day of the dedication of a new Genocide Memorial, built with the help of the Barefoot Artists, a young woman weeps as she remembers the horror from thirteen years previous.
The Rwandan Genocide is the largest orchestrated killing of human beings, in the shortest period of time, in human history. During the killing, searching for her missing daughter (who was later found murdered), and while still holding her infant child in her arms, Mukagatare was attacked by Hutu Militia. The militia attempted to sever her neck with a machete. Left for dead, she was about to be buried when someone noticed she was still breathing. Miraculously, she and her baby managed to stay alive.
Only a child in 1994, Hutu Militia tried to beat this young woman to death with sticks. They did not succeed in taking her life, nor did they rob her of the beauty in her spirit. In the end, there are as many reasons for genocide as there are people on the earth. For the most uncomfortable fact of all is that genocide resides in each one of us. As Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “Our enemies are not other men, they are intolerance, fanaticism, dictatorship, cupidity, hatred, and discrimination which lie in the heart of man.”
A former member of Rwanda’s National Track and Field Team, in 1984 Clementine represented her country in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Today she is a fiercely dedicated teacher and community leader in Rugerero.
A portrait of Dorthee, caretaker of the Genocide Memorial that was built with the aid of Barefoot Artists.
A young girl entranced by the music during a village celebration welcoming the Barefoot Artists back to Rwanda.
In Rwanda, like most African nations, there is no free public education after 6th Grade. It costs $150 or more a year for a student to continue school. Yet despite such challenges, and extremely limited resources, the dedication of students and teachers alike in Rugerero is striking. In this image, teacher Fabrice discusses the day’s assignment as students begin their work.
NOT ENOUGH DESKS
There is a burning desire to learn, seen in the fierce concentration of the children in the oven hot classroom. The chaos, the noise, and activity contrasts with the determination to grow and succeed. Lacking desks to accommodate all the children who would like to participate, these girls squat on the classroom floor to do their work.
THE JOY OF LEARNING
A big smile on a small girl. Ask these children what they hope to be, and they will answer, “President.” “Attorney.” “Policewoman.” “Doctor.”
In a rare moment of calm in the schoolhouse, Adelphine, daughter of teacher Clementine, waits for class to begin.
PLAYING IN THE RAIN
Following a cloud burst, a young boy plays with a discarded tire in the village.
PORTRAIT IN BLUE
The village is like a million other villages one passes by in the Third World. Yet once entered, one discovers a fierce burning spark of humanity in each and every person, no matter how small.
Even when people are struggling to survive, they respond to beauty. This little girl is proud of the flowers growing outside her home.
KERERE IN THE GARDEN
What strikes you is not what is lacking, but what is abundant: the indomitable spirit of the people, the fire of humanity that burns so brightly. “I am someone,” their eyes tell you. “Notice me. Respect me. Give me a chance to show you what I can do.” Modern Rwanda has an urgent need to remember and ensure genocide never returns, balanced against the equally urgent need to heal and forgive.