Last month, the photographer Pieter Hugo went to southern Rwanda, two decades after nearly a million people were killed during the country’s genocide, and captured a series of unlikely, almost unthinkable tableaus. In one, a woman rests her hand on the shoulder of the man who killed her father and brothers. In another, a woman poses with a casually reclining man who looted her property and whose father helped murder her husband and children. In many of these photos, there is little evident warmth between the pairs, and yet there they are, together. In each, the perpetrator is a Hutu who was granted pardon by the Tutsi survivor of his crime.
The people who agreed to be photographed are part of a continuing national effort toward reconciliation and worked closely with AMI (Association Modeste et Innocent), a nonprofit organization. In AMI’s program, small groups of Hutus and Tutsis are counseled over many months, culminating in the perpetrator’s formal request for forgiveness. If forgiveness is granted by the survivor, the perpetrator and his family and friends typically bring a basket of offerings, usually food and sorghum or banana beer. The accord is sealed with song and dance.
The photographs on the following pages are a small selection of a larger body on display — outdoors, in large format — starting this month in The Hague. The series was commissioned by Creative Court, an arts organization based there, as part of “Rwanda 20 Years,” a program exploring the theme of forgiveness. The images will eventually be shown at memorials and churches in Rwanda.
At the photo shoots, Hugo said, the relationships between the victims and the perpetrators varied widely. Some pairs showed up and sat easily together, chatting about village gossip. Others arrived willing to be photographed but unable to go much further. “There’s clearly different degrees of forgiveness,” Hugo said. “In the photographs, the distance or closeness you see is pretty accurate.”
In interviews conducted by AMI and Creative Court for the project, the subjects spoke of the pardoning process as an important step toward improving their lives. “These people can’t go anywhere else — they have to make peace,” Hugo explained. “Forgiveness is not born out of some airy-fairy sense of benevolence. It’s more out of a survival instinct.” Yet the practical necessity of reconciliation does not detract from the emotional strength required of these Rwandans to forge it — or to be photographed, for that matter, side by side.
Here’s a few of the photos:
Jean Pierre Karenzi - Perpetrator (left)
Viviane Nyiramana - Survivor
KARENZI: “My conscience was not quiet, and when I would see her I was very ashamed. After being trained about unity and reconciliation, I went to her house and asked for forgiveness. Then I shook her hand. So far, we are on good terms.”
NYIRAMANA: “He killed my father and three brothers. He did these killings with other people, but he came alone to me and asked for pardon. He and a group of other offenders who had been in prison helped me build a house with a covered roof. I was afraid of him — now I have granted him pardon, things have become normal, and in my mind I feel clear.”
Godefroid Mudaheranwa - Perpetrator (left)
Evasta Mukanyandwi - Survivor
MUDAHERANWA: “I burned her house. I attacked her in order to kill her and her children, but God protected them, and they escaped. When I was released from jail, if I saw her, I would run and hide. Then AMI started to provide us with trainings. I decided to ask her for forgiveness. To have good relationships with the person to whom you did evil deeds — we thank God.”
MUKANYANDWI: “I used to hate him. When he came to my house and knelt down before me and asked for forgiveness, I was moved by his sincerity. Now, if I cry for help, he comes to rescue me. When I face any issue, I call him.”
Juvenal Nzabamwita - Perpetrator (right)
Cansilde Kampundu - Survivor
NZABAMWITA: “I damaged and looted her property. I spent nine and a half years in jail. I had been educated to know good from evil before being released. And when I came home, I thought it would be good to approach the person to whom I did evil deeds and ask for her forgiveness. I told her that I would stand by her, with all the means at my disposal. My own father was involved in killing her children. When I learned that my parent had behaved wickedly, for that I profoundly begged her pardon, too.”
KAMPUNDU: “My husband was hiding, and men hunted him down and killed him on a Tuesday. The following Tuesday, they came back and killed my two sons. I was hoping that my daughters would be saved, but then they took them to my husband’s village and killed them and threw them in the latrine. I was not able to remove them from that hole. I knelt down and prayed for them, along with my younger brother, and covered the latrine with dirt. The reason I granted pardon is because I realized that I would never get back the beloved ones I had lost. I could not live a lonely life — I wondered, if I was ill, who was going to stay by my bedside, and if I was in trouble and cried for help, who was going to rescue me? I preferred to grant pardon.”
NASA has released a new image taken by its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, showing the cloud-like remnants of an exploded star dubbed the “Hand of God.” In a statement, astronomer Hongjun An said “We don’t know if the hand shape is an optical illusion” or if the star material actually makes the shape of a hand. Either way, the pulsar is pretty incredible:
A fashion mannequin has an implicit message: this form is beautiful. If your own body doesn’t look like that form—not even remotely—then you may not feel that way about yourself.
The Swiss charity Pro Infirmis helps people with disabilities. To remind them that they are beautiful, too, they commissioned mannequins modelled on the bodies of four people with disabilities. The video below shows the process. Craftsmen measured the bodies of the models, then reshaped mannequins to fit those specifications.
After finishing construction, Pro Infirmis placed those mannequins, now dressed in fashionable clothing, in a storefront in Zurich. Watch the responses of the models and passersby.
Although London is famous for its foggy weather, you wouldn’t know it based on this stunning time-lapsevideo of the city’s sunny days and shimmering nights
Paul Richardson, the photographer behind the above clip, writes that it took 18,000 photographs to create a rough cut of his time-lapse video, according to a description on Vimeo:
“Whenever I visit London, I’m always surprised by the true 24/7 nature of the city; it really is a place that never sleeps. That was exactly what I wanted to capture, the ‘hustle and bustle’ of everyday life.”
When you think about the children’s modeling clay brand Play-Doh, a social commentary of 2013 is not top of the list of things I would expect. The brand has released this 2013 Year in Review, re-creating some of the year’s most memorable moments with the play-doh. From the birth of Prince George, the Royal Baby to Twitter’s IPO, the list is surprisingly diverse for a brand that markets to 5-7 year olds.
Selfies have become the big thing in 2013. But on Christmas Eve, they literally went out of this world, as astronaut Mike Hopkins, a flight engineer on NASA’s Expedition 38, took this selfie, during the second of two spacewalks on the International Space Station. The image was posted on NASA’s website.
While any selfie from space is clearly a legendary feat, Hopkins gets bonus points for being photobombed by none other than planet Earth.