Based on the research of Dr Julia Viebach (University of Oxford Faculty of Law) into memory and justice in Rwanda, the temporary exhibition Kwibuka Rwanda: Commemorative practices of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, highlighted the story of genocide survivors’ attempts to come to terms with loss and trauma. The exhibition was curated by Dr Viebach and Jozie Kettle (Pitt Rivers Museum), in consultation with members of the Ishami Foundation and members of the Rwandan community of Oxford.
Kwibuka Rwanda was on display in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s Long Gallery from 21 April to 28 September 2018 and has since toured internationally. It continues to be booked for venues around the UK and beyond.
All societies have ways of honouring and remembering the dead. Many displays in the Museum convey ways of showing respect to deceased loved ones. Dr Viebach worked with Museum staff to link her research to the material culture of the Museum, powerfully engaging visitors with her work. Together, they developed ways to evaluate the display, capturing responses from many of the visitors who felt moved and informed by the exhibition.
Albert Gaske, coordinator of Kwibuka Rwanda’s tour to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, Michigan, USA, said about the exhibition’s impact:
'One participant, Sister Marie Josepha, a survivor herself from Gikongoro now living here in Michigan, was touched by the exhibition in a particular way. She pulled me aside after gazing at the panel that shows a stand-alone piece of stone at Cyanika Memorial site. "I was here," she said, pointing at the panel as she wiped tears from her eyes. Sister Marie Josepha was deeply moved. She said she never thought her story and the story of those she lost could travel this far, and finally reach her right here in West Michigan, 7,500 miles away from the little town of Cyanika. The story of Sister Marie Josepha is not the only one. Valentine Iribagiza, who came out of corpses in Nyarubuye, was really touched when she saw a panel that describes that memorial site. I could see survivors's enthusiam as they were walking around the panels sharing their memories with their American friends. On behalf of my fellow survivors, thank you so much for sharing Kwibuka Rwanda panels with the survivors and our new community in West Michigan.'
To mark the 24th anniversary of the genocide, and to coincide with the launch of the Kwibuka Rwanda exhibition, Rwandan community members from Oxford, London and Reading curated a commemorative event at Mansfield College, followed by a reception at Pitt Rivers Museum.
To see more about this project, including a short film and press coverage, visit the Faculty of Law’s website.
Dr Viebach, members of the Rwandan community in Oxfordshire and Jozie Kettle are collaborating on further display and interpretive work. In May 2019, a follow-up display, Bearing Witness, will open in the Museum.