Seeing the Rwandan Genocide through the eyes of children

The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is assuredly one of the most frightening moments of history.

The terror evoked from its referral had nothing to do with its death toll of 800,000 and had everything to do with the sheer amount of hatred that facilitated the unethical and gruesome slaughtering of this shockingly high number of people.

This genocide involved two groups of people: the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Tutsis were the minority, only representing 15% of Rwanda's population. Though, in spite of their small numbers, they were the more dominant group economically; their dominance resulted in their unfavorable reputation in the Hutu community. The Tutsis were also a scapegoat for the country's economic, social, and political issues at the time, provoking the Hutu population to formulate and plot their revenge. The revenge began with President Juvenal Habyarimana's martyr-like death. Inevitably, the Tutsis were the ones blamed for shooting down the plane that killed the Hutu president and every other Hutu on board, and the publicity of this attack provoked all Hutus to rise in revolt and massacre all Tutsis.

It was a 100-day slaughter. 100 days of crude propaganda encouraging even some of the most peaceful Hutus to "weed out the cockroaches" and partake in the killings. 100 days of Hutus hacking Tutsis to death with machetes. 100 days of Tutsi women being ferociously raped and held as sex slaves before their moments of death.

100 days of blood-curdling tales to be told by the drawings of innocent children.

This gallery of drawings illustrates the brutality of the Rwandan Genocide from the perspectives of innocent children. All of these drawings contain red blotches, mangled corpses, and murderous weapons such as machetes, guns, bows and arrows. For any individual, let alone a child, seeing such terrors is undoubtedly traumatizing.

All of their experiences from the genocide are collectively harnessed in these condensed yet exceptionally detailed drawings. Based on the simplicity of their shapes and space organization, the children who made these drawings are very young. Thus, for them to be able to include details such as nature, dialogue, and actions suggest that they truly lived in the moment. They etched traumatic moments on paper to acknowledge that the events transpiring around them truly happened.

Although these drawings are memories of pain, chaos, horror, and panic, they are also proof that art greatly strengthens the reliability of memories. These drawings were created either directly after or during the genocide, labeling them as a primary source. With a historical event as systematic and diabolical as the Holocaust, it is important to gather all primary sources to make sense of its occurrence.

Even though the ghosts of these children's past will never go away, their recollection of the genocide will change. However, these digitized drawings will never change. They allow us to strengthen our understanding of the conflict and tension between the Hutus and Tutsis since we get to witness all of the action at a very primitive level.


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