L-R Jean-Baptiste Kayigamba (survivor of the Genocide against the Tutsi and project partner/participant), Julia Viebach, Jozie Kettle (Pitt Rivers Museum), Katherine Clough (exhibition designer), Caritas Umulisa (survivor of the Genocide against the Tutsi and project participant/partner)
Dr Julia Viebach, African Studies Centre and Jozie Kettle, Pitt Rivers Museum, have won a Vice-Chancellor’s Public Engagement with Research Award for Remembering Rwanda which encompasses two engagement activities: Kwibuka Rwanda (‘we remember’ in Kinyarwanda) and Bearing Witness. The project draws on Julia’s research with survivors to capture the nature, narratives and the materiality of Rwanda’s genocide commemoration.

The announcement was made at an awards ceremony at Keble College, Oxford, on 10 July hosted by Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

About the project

Kwibuka Rwanda is a photographic exhibition that delves into the world of survivors working at memorials who have pledged their lives to care, clean and preserve the dead bodies of their loved ones that are often displayed at such sites.

The exhibition features quotes from survivors and photographs and integrates Rwandan fabric into its design to surround the dead with a sense of ‘home’. Kwibuka Rwanda was developed in consultation with Rwandan partners and survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi living in the UK and displayed at the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2018, attracting over 70,000 visitors and has also travelled internationally and attracted global attention. 

Bearing Witness builds on and expands the collaboration with the Rwandan community and Julia’s work on diaspora commemoration on occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi this year. Through a case display at the Pitt Rivers Museum co-curated by survivors and a video installation featuring their life stories, Bearing Witness acknowledges the courage and resilience of those who bear the burden of survivor-hood.

Outcomes and impact

Remembering Rwanda raises awareness of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and in doing so fights apathy towards the distant suffering of ‘others’ in times of rising right–wing populism.

“History should be embraced and ‘built on’, no matter how bad it is. It cannot be wiped away but it can be the foundation for a better future” Exhibition visitor

This work fostered relationships and a unique collaboration with the Rwandan community and inspired new research into diaspora commemoration.

Partners:

John Binama, Chairman National Association of Rwandese Communities in the UK; Rwandese Community in Oxford, Rwanda High Commission in the UK said:

Theirs was a cry never heard. Through the commemoration and the Kwibuka Rwanda Exhibition, we remember them.


Professor Alison Woollard, Academic Champion for Public Engagement with Research, University of Oxford says:
“These awards highlight the many ways that Oxford’s researchers engage with the public. This includes informing and empowering people by sharing research findings; working in partnership with communities to shape research and enabling citizens to take part in the research by collecting and analysing data through Citizen Science. These winning projects also demonstrate that excellence in engagement results in a ‘win-win’ for both researchers and publics alike.”

About the awards

The Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards recognise and reward those at the University who undertake high-quality engagement activities and have contributed to building capacity in this area. The awards have three categories – Early Career Researcher, Building Capacity and Projects. Entrants can be at any level in their career and activities of any scale are welcome.

Winning entries receive recognition for their achievements at the Vice-Chancellor's Public Engagement with Research Awards Ceremony that will take place on 10 July 2019.The Vice-Chancellor’s prize will also be announced at the ceremony and the winner will receive a cash prize of £1,500.