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The Women of Ntarama Rwanda

The Process

What seems like a step out of reality to me, is just another day at work for my subjects. My job is to elevate the session to convey meaning beyond what we see on the surface that day.

After several visits to one of the sewing groups my wife works with in Ntarama Rwanda, I reached a point that together we felt comfortable stepping just outside the workshop to take few pictures. I had to ask myself what I could give back to these women for engaging in this session with me. The most immediate thing to offer them was a copy of the photo. To recieve a photograph in Rwanda ( yes an actual printed photo ) is still a valued gift there and the very least I could do to thank them for their participation. This did however present a problem for my conceptual approach. I was seeking one thing and their expectations were something else entirely. I felt I had to meet them on their expectations before I could really expect mine fufilled. In my case it was to present a more illustrative view filled with symbolism of the countries tramatic past. These women although very young at the time of the genocide and some of them not even born in 1994, are subject to the intergenerational impacts still very much a part of their conicousness everyday.


I will forever be struck by the similarities between the countries of Canada and Rwanda with regard to the impact that colonization has had on indigenous people. Although most point to tribal differences within Rwanda as the root problem, it was the effects of colonization that divided the country into different ethnicities in the first place. It's amazing to hear it said that the only difference between Hutu and Tutsi in the distant past, was based on their economic standing ( how much livestock they owned etc ) and not bloodlines or geneology.

I wanted these portraits to reflect the turmoil of the past and also evoke a sense of hope for the future. The challenge for me was to get shots that interepreted my concept as well as additional shots suitable to offer to the subjects as token of thanks. I'm not sure they would like the seriousness of the shots I intend to take for myself, but I will show them on the next trip. The challenge I met was to get something light and snappy for them, and something that could make this statement for all within a very short window of just minutes. As for the sessions given that I wanted to use strobe and diffusion unit, I was dancing to make it all happen sucessfully.