Rwanda: What Do You See?

15 May

Memorial, Nyarubuye


“The dead at Nyarubuye were, I’m afraid, beautiful. There was no getting around it. The skeleton is a beautiful thing. The randomness of the fallen forms, the strange tranquillity of their rude exposure, the skull here, the arm bent in some uninterpretable gesture there–these things were beautiful, and their beauty only added to the affront of the place. I couldn’t settle on any meaningful response: revulsion, alarm, sorrow, grief, shame, incomprehension, sure, but nothing truly meaningful.”

-Philip Gourevitch (We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda)

I haven’t seen these skeletons – but I have seen the pictures. It fills me with an overwhelming angry sorrow. I see the brutal destruction of something that WAS beautiful. I see that the dignity which was snatched away before they died eludes them even in death. I see a complete disconnect from the fact that they were people like you and me – with families, with emotions, with troubles and dreams. I see no humanity towards either the dead or their living. I see a “marketing” tool, that screams “Look at what happened to us”. I see a sensational proclamation to the world. I see no compassion for those who see their people scattered all over the place in itty bitty pieces.

In his words, I see romanticization of brutality – like Salgado’s angel faces of starving african babies,


or a refugee camp in Tanzania – floating in the etheral haze of dust and pollution.


Yes, I see fragile beauty in skeletons, and humans, but in their ‘natural’ context. When the unnatural takes over, I don’t see the fragile beauty of the randomness he describes, like I do in a Giacometti or a Pollock. In these memorials, I don’t see anything I want to see.


2 Responses to “Rwanda: What Do You See?”


  1. Bling on the Blog, Part 1: Lord of the Bling « Terrific Whistlers - June 10, 2007

    […] acts as a representation of human identity. A world away from genocide memorials, some of which in Rwanda include rows and rows of anonymous skulls with visible machete blows or head scarves still wrapped […]

  2. A Killer Argument Against the Quantitative Approach to Human Rights? | P.A.P.-BLOG – HUMAN RIGHTS ETC. - March 3, 2011

    […] (source) […]

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