The Mugonero site is located in Western Province. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich.

This is a memorial to the genocide as it transpired in the Mugonero complex of Gishyita commune in what was formerly Kibuye prefecture. At the heart of this complex were Mugonero church, hospital, and nursing school, which Hutu génocidaires turned into massacre sites when the genocidal campaign of 1994 reached this mountainous region in the western part of Rwanda between April 9 and 16 of that year.

The low-ceilinged memorial building, apparently constructed by hospital staff and local community members at around the millennial year, is of triangular shape and filled with the usual sad trappings of memory: a table with skulls; a crypt holding coffins draped in purple and white cloth; dried-up wreaths; and banners on the walls recalling the atrocities that were visited on the six thousand or so local Tutsi who had sought shelter at the Mugonero complex. One of the wall banners reads “Burya (boria) si bono,” which our interpreter translates as, “There was a time in the past when everything was bad for you, but now that time is past. ”

Particularly noteworthy is the artwork facing the windowed front of the memorial. On top of a rectangular, tiled base, one finds an unusual sculpture of three sets of entangled hands made of metal, perhaps bronze. On the structure’s highest point, a pair of hands is tied with what is meant to look like rope. Lower on the structure, on each side of the pair of hands, are more hands, four altogether. The first of these is wielding a machete, the second a nail-studded club.

It is not quite clear, however, what the third and fourth hands are meant to connote. Are they meant to represent assistance (aiding the perpetrating hand) or resistance (staying the perpetrating hand)? Only the unknown artist who commemorated the genocide in Mugonero complex will ever know for sure.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.