It’s heavy stuff: 31 large format photos of Rwandan women who were raped during the 1994 genocide and who later gave birth as a result. The photos are, as you’d expect, intense, showing the pain, hopelessness, acceptance, and alienation of the women and their children, as well as the humanity and skill of the photographer, Jonathan Torgovnik.
I’d wanted to go to the opening on March 5, but it was cold that night, so I stayed home. Francisco and I finally made it to 27th between 10th and 11th this afternoon and we moved through the exhibit independently. In fact, I’m not sure he made it through all the photos. But I looked at them all and read the women’s stories.
About the experience of rape, the women were unequivocal: horrible, damaging, traumatic. But about the experiences of birth and motherhood, they differed widely in their feelings and their words. Some women said they loved their children, that the children gave them a reason to live and to hope and to go on even after their bodies were violated and scarred and their relatives had all been killed. But some women admitted they didn’t love their children at all, or that they found it hard to love them.
We didn’t talk about the photos afterward.
But all the way home, and now, as the light slips low towards the horizon, I know I’ll keep thinking about the women and their children. About them and about the luck of being born in one place. About the difference between choosing to have a child and not really having a choice at all. And about not having to think about whether I’ll be able to love my child.
After his work in Rwanda, Torgovnik started an organzization, Foundation Rwanda, to help the women and children he photographed–and those like them–through the provision of education and psychological services. To learn more about Foundation Rwanda, visit: http://www.foundationrwanda.org/