RWANDA

In that black desert, her fragile soul was swallowed. The next morning, before dawn’s first beginning light, I heard another voice. At first the screams were low then shrill as a child was taken down by a pack of wild animals. Thirty seconds later she was silenced. I didn’t have the courage to ask. No one asked about another child, screaming from the void.

Sudan transformed every cell in my body. She laid my body down, and transfused blood into veins that had none. I’d been holding my breath for three years since I left Rwanda. No one left there unchanged. No one left there not utterly destroyed. The images haunted me. After I returned from Rwanda is when the nightmares began. I would be walking through the church, Nyarabuye, through the bodies, the bones, sifting through them, holding them. The clothes, the smell, all of it would come screaming back. I’d wake in tears holding my wife, stroking her hair, telling her “how sorry I was that I hadn’t been there to help her, to save her. I just kept repeating how sorry I was.” After thirty seconds or so, I would wake and realize that my small petite, blond wife was not a tall, slender Tutsi. The spirits also found me in Burundi. I was lying in bed and I had just turned off the lights. Ten minutes later in a dim candlelit room I felt the first of the pressure. It started just above both my ankles and then both my biceps. Something, someone pushed me down into the bed and then another grabbed my throat. I was been shaken wildly and pushed down into the bed. There was no one in the room. I was in full panic mode, but had to tell my self to breath, breath deep. I closed my eyes, kept breathing and saw and felt flashes of the photographs I had made in the slaughterhouses of Nyarabuye and Gitarama. I saw the children’s prison as well. I remember feeling guilt somehow for what I photographed, as if I had stolen something. Witnessed something I should never have seen. The strangling intensified and then it stopped. I was alone, again.

In Rwanda, on the last stretch of road before I came to the church of Nyarabuye I experienced similar apparitions or visions. At this point I was completely sober but I started to see in the periphery of my vision people stepping forward from behind the trees. When I looked directly towards the apparitions I saw nothing. This has happened only twice, and I still can’t explain either to this day. The second time they found me was when I was printing their images in the darkroom. Again, only out of my periphery. When I looked directly, there was no one. I felt ten to twelve spirits, mostly women. This time though the energy was very different. As if they were there to support one another, to be present at the time of their printing. I have printed those images just once, in the early winter of 1994.