Research by Dr Julia Viebach in the Centre for Criminology has resulted in Kwibuka Rwanda, a photographic exhibition exploring memorial sites for victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Coinciding with the launch of the exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum was the 24th annual commemoration of the Genocide.

Every April Rwandans in the UK come together in a series of national events commemorating victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This year Oxford was host to one of the four major Kwibuka (‘remember’) ceremonies, which marked the 24th anniversary of the Genocide. Held at Mansfield College Chapel on 21 April, the commemoration coincided with the opening of Kwibuka Rwanda, a photographic exhibition curated by the Centre for Criminology’s Dr Julia Viebach.

Members of the Rwandan community in the UK were joined for the commemoration by Oxford residents and academics. In her opening remarks, Professor Mary Bosworth commented on the importance of research such as Julia’s in the aftermath of atrocity and to prevent atrocities from happening in the future. Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK, Yamina Karitanyi, also spoke, along with Jean Fooks, the Lord Mayor of Oxford, and a panel made up of British and Rwandan speakers.

The panel, discussed ways of remembering and recovering from the 1994 Genocide, which resulted in the deaths of more than one million Tutsi. Two survivors (academic, Dr Richard Benda and Oxford resident, Lilian Umumbyeyi), spoke of a duty Rwandan parents have to explain the tragedy to their children, as well as the challenge that this task poses. Lilian stressed that memory is all survivors have left and therefore remembering is of utter importance for them. The audience also discussed the crucial role played by colonialism in Rwanda, which constructed the ethnic division by its divide and rule strategy.

Participants in the commemoration next heard a moving testimony from Antoinette Mushimiyimana, who witnessed the slaughter of her family by the Interahamwe militia at only twelve years old. Antoinette was forced to hide out in a pig latrine within earshot of the militia for three weeks, surviving on rain water.

Finally, attendees processed to the Pitt Rivers for songs, a talk delivered by the museum’s Director, Dr Laura Van Broekhoven, and the opening of the Kwibuka Rwanda exhibition. Based on Julia’s extensive research on the role of memory in transitional justice, the exhibition showcases a series of photographs taken by her at some of the 243 genocide memorials around Rwanda, together with testimonies of Genocide survivors. It reflects on the attempts of survivors working at memorials to honour their dead loved ones and to come to terms with loss and trauma.

Kwibuka Rwanda was curated in consultation with members of Ishami Foundation, the Rwandan community in Oxford, and the Pitt Rivers Museum. It will be open until 28 September 2018.

Read more about Julia's work