Kwibuka Rwanda

21 April – 28 September 2018

Long Gallery

All societies have ways of honouring and remembering the dead. Many displays in the Pitt Rivers Museum convey ways of showing respect to deceased loved ones. This exhibition looks at how survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda commemorate.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, more than one million people lost their lives in just 100 days. Today there are 243 memorials, often marking sites where genocide took place. Many memorials preserve the remains of those who perished.  Kwibuka Rwanda highlights a small selection of these memorials, telling the story of genocide survivors' attempts to come to terms with loss and trauma. It gives voice to the 'care-takers', survivors who work at memorials, honouring the dead by cleaning and preserving their remains. 

Kwibuka Rwanda raises awareness and understanding of the way Rwandans commemorate and memorialise their dead, showing how survivors rebuild their lives through creativitiy and resilience. It demonstrates the determination of survivors to come to terms with a violent past, and the role genocide memorials and human remains play in this process.

Content Warning: This exhibition includes images of human remains and shares upsetting personal testimonies from survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

This exhibition is based on Dr. Julia Viebach's (Faculty of Law, University of Oxford) extensive research on memory and justice in Rwanda between 2009 and 2014. The photographs reflect the visual method used during her fieldwork. All names used are pseudonyms. The exhibition has been curated in consultation with members of Ishami Foundation, and of the Rwandan community in Oxford, the Pitt Rivers Museum and the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

"I am grateful to all survivors who shared their incredible stories of suffering and survival with me. I would also like to thank the Commission for the Fight Against Genocide in Rwanda for the permission to carry out this research and IBUKA for their continuous support for and interest in my work. I hope that this exhibition can be an educational opportunity to promote understanding of and empathy for the suffering of 'the other' in times of heightened xenophobia and fear of otherness and difference" - Julia Viebach

Part of this research has been funded by the Law Faculty of University of Oxford and the Leverhulme Trust; the exhibition was made possible through the financial support of the University of Oxford's Public Engagement Seed Fund.

All images are © Julia Viebach.

Nyange Memorial (2014), Western Province, where 2500 people bulldozed to death. The memorial was built into the structure of the church ruins. Today it is a national memorial.

Kinazi Memorial, Southern Province, is home to around 60,000 victims. Bodies were thrown in a mass grave in a place called Rutabo nearby. They were exhumed in 2013 and laid to rest at the memorial.














Kinazi Memorial, view looking out of the tomb. Agathe, a survivor of the Kinazi massacre, finds this memorial a place to mourn her dead family. She said that these stairs remind her of the importance of staying in the world of the living.














Nyange Memorial, Western Province. Martin, a care-taker, explains that the rose shown in the image symbolises dignity.














Gisenyi Memorial, Western Province. Some care-takers explain that showing photographs of victims in life, and displaying their names and belongings, brings them back into the world of the living. By naming and through the introduction of photographs and personal objects, survivors keep a relationship with the dead.














Cyanika Memorial, Southern Province. The memorial houses around 30,000 to 35,000 victims. In this image you can see victims' possessions, including pipes, toy balls made out of rubber bands and a medicine bottle.