by Pieter Hugo – Essay by Linda Melvern
In 2004 South African photographer Pieter Hugo was astonished by a photograph used to illustrate an article on the Rwandan genocide. The picture showed a human skull on an altar inside the Catholic church at Ntarama, south of Kigali.
Ten years previously an estimated 5,000 Tutsis were massacred there by government soldiers, civilians and the feared Interahamwe; across Rwanda many victims had believed, mistakenly, that churches would provide secure refuge. But what most arrested Hugo was the fact that a decade after the killings (the photograph was made in 2004) the evidence, remains and detritus of genocide were still to be seen. He resolved to visit, ‘photographing and contemplating’ the sites of Rwanda’s carnage. The results of that journey are now published as Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide offering, he writes, “a glimpse of what I saw there before the reburials took place.”
Kigali International Airport. Over a period of four days, some 3,900 people of 22 nationalities left Rwanda with the help of European troops flown in for that purpose. © Pieter Hugo