From the WITNESS archives: this post originally appeared on our Hub blog in November 2009.
By Teague Schneiter and Michele DeLia
“Not to transmit an experience is to betray it.”- Elie Wiesel
“On April 7, 1994, Rwanda descended into genocide. Over the course of 90 days, at least half a million minority Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed by fellow Rwandans with the implicit permission of a passive international community. Today survivors, bystanders, the rescuers, and perpetrators are all searching for ways to live with one another and with their difficult past. Despite the enormous challenges, Rwanda is moving forward and rebuilding a nation.” – Voices of Rwanda
Taylor Krauss is the Founder and Executive Director of Voices of Rwanda, a non-profit organization that records video testimonies of the survivors from the Rwandan genocide. In this interview, conducted by Teague Schneiter and edited by Michele DeLia – both interns at WITNESS, Krauss reflects on how video testimony archives help us understand the effects of mass violence on individuals as well as prevent its recurrence. This video interview is part of our ongoing spotlight on The Role of Archives in Human Rights (see our previous spotlight on Cambodia’s Khmer Legacies video archive project here).
Voices of Rwanda records the life stories of Rwandans – not just stories about the genocide, but about their lives as whole. The organization works to preserve and make accessible these video oral histories, while at the same time protecting them against any misuse. As Krauss states, these video testimonies play a powerful role in the way we remember past atrocities. The goal of the organization is to turn the archive into an educational resource for journalists, historians, academics, psychologists, artists and activists.
Since 2005, Voices of Rwanda has filmed more than 500 hours of video testimonies. As it continues to build its video library, the organization will soon incorporate new search tools to help users navigate and explore their audio-visual content in more detail – including links to geographic locations and visual timelines. It is also creating a curriculum to educate U.S. high school students about genocide. Once the archive is available to the public, Voices of Rwanda hopes to inspire greater understanding and action among individuals and the global community.
Krauss is based in the U.S. but spends much of his time in Rwanda recording testimonies. He is also working with Rwandans to make the archive accessible to the public in both countries. After graduating with a degree in Film Studies in 2002, he worked on a variety of human rights films on subjects ranging from refugee issues, healthcare, immigration rights, sexual violence, human trafficking, and the genocide in Darfur. Krauss is also an independent video-journalist who has worked for media networks such as Associated Press, BBC, PBS, CNN, and HBO. In 2009, he was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
More recently, testimonies from Voices of Rwanda were used in an advocacy video produced by WITNESS and STAND: “Make ‘Never Again’ a Reality” demands decisive action from U.S. lawmakers and calls on them to enact legislation that would help prevent genocide. Watch as Placidie, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, shares her story:
Testimonies from Voices of Rwanda are also being used in projects like Testimony and its Possibilities by Natalie Frank, a painter who visited Rwanda to photograph women survivors in order to address the complexities of human atrocities and genocide and explore how they’re presented to the world. That project – a collaboration with Voices of Rwanda – is on display until December 1 (2009) at the Slought Foundation in Pennsylvania, U.S. See a video excerpt here.
Featured image from DFID- UK Department of International Development on Flickr, 2009.