Helping heal through recording history

Helping heal through recording history

Murdoch University's School of Media, Communication & Culture are giving Rwandan genocide victims the chance to record their experiences through the donation of 10 digital video cameras.

During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide approximately one million members of the Tutsi minority and moderates of the Hutu majority were systematically murdered over a period of little more than three months, including the family of Yves Kamuronsi, who narrowly escaped death himself.

Fourteen years on, Mr Kamuronsi is Director of Documentation at the Kigali Memorial Centre, a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide and a site where more than 250,000 of the victims are buried.

Murdoch University’s Associate Professor Mick Broderick and Dr Martin Mhando met Mr Kamuronsi last year when they travelled to Rwanda to learn more about the communication of mass human suffering and the media used to convey it.

Mr Kamuronsi visited Murdoch for five days last week to catch up with Professor Broderick and the Rwandan project team and brief them on media needs in Rwanda.

“Working with Murdoch University will strengthen the Kigali Centre’s research capacity and will increase our knowledge and technology,” Mr Kamuronsi said.

Mr Kamuronsi said his work gathering documents, photographs, film and artefacts for cataloguing, frequently returned him to the source of his suffering.

“They shot five bullets at my father and he lay there in agony for two days with no medication … when he was starting to feel better, they came back and finished him off,” Mr Kamuronsi said.

Visiting Rwanda

Associate Professor Broderick said last year he and Dr Mhando visited genocide memorial sites, and spoke to NGOs and representatives from survivor organisations.

"Like many western observers of the 1994 genocide, I was concerned that we seemed to have learned very little from earlier historical massacres, genocidal acts, the Holocaust and the ever-present nuclear threat," Professor Broderick said.

"I was worried that ‘old media', such as films like Hotel Rwanda, and TV documentaries, tended to colonise stories and impart a standard narrative and stylistic template to make these inconceivable horrors palatable for a mass audience."

Research shows that testimony and discourse can greatly help in easing and healing trauma over time.

"There are very few Rwandese resourced with the equipment or training to capture testimony as it unfolds," Professor Broderick said.

"The surplus digital video cameras from the School of Media, Communication & Culture will expand the capacity for this raw material to be recorded for perpetuity."

The recipients of the cameras will be an NGO, the Kigali Memorial Centre, working under the umbrella of Ibuka, the principal genocide survivor organisation in Rwanda.

"The Kigali Memorial Centre is doing incredible work with miniscule resources recording the locations of atrocities across Rwanda, and our cameras will be an important contribution to the collection of evidence and testimony at such locations."

Further Research

Professor Broderick and Dr Mhando's initial visit to Rwanda has led to the development of a further research project that will involve many disciplines at Murdoch University.

"Under the stewardship of Centre for Community and Social Research we will deliver counselling services, creative technology, media resources, skills development, as well as business and management capacity-building for struggling NGOs in Rwanda.

Significant grants are being sought from major philanthropic institutions abroad.

Mr Kamuronsi’s visit coincided with Murdoch’s Interrogating Trauma Conference and its outreach film program and art exhibition in Fremantle.

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