No different than any other Rwandan in the world, I and my family were deeply affected by the 1994 Genocide that claimed the lives of close to one million people over a three-month period as the majority of the world watched in idle. I traveled to Rwanda shortly after the Genocide, my first trip there since childhood, and I was touched by the plethora of orphaned children, roaming the streets alone, homeless, with nowhere to turn. This experience gave birth to an internal, spiritual journey with my work that inspired a series of pieces portraying Rwandan children who were victims – indeed, survivors – of war crime. The series focused on their emotional trials, their healing, and their strength. There is sadness, and yet, great love and beauty in each piece.
In my own healing, I have expanded my collection to include storytelling inspired by the ancient Lukasa divination boards used by the Luba people of ancient Congo as memory boards. In each relief woodcarving, studded by intricate movements of shells and beadwork, a new story is told, one that can be interpreted differently by the maker of the board or the viewer. As we, African people, Diasporic people, human people, continue healing from strife in Rwanda, in Congo, in other regions of a resource-rich Continent, the story telling memory boards are used not so much to represent a specific story as to inspire new ones.
© Duhirwe Rushemeza