(Re)articulating remains: mass grave exhumation and genocide corpses in Rwanda
In Rwanda, graves containing the bodies of those killed during conflict and the 1994 genocide hold great significance both for the Rwandan state and for individuals caught up in the violent conflicts that have troubled the country over the last century. The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has initiated a national exhumation program, unearthing thousands of genocide victims. The exhumations are undertaken by genocide survivors and local community members who unearth the bodies, disarticulate the corpses, wash and layout the bones for re-internment together. The destruction of graves and/or the reconstruction of memorials takes place alongside this process, a transformation into collective spaces of genocide ‘remembrance’. My thesis interrogates these processes and considers a conundrum: in as much as these are revealing acts, making visible the horrors of a violent death, that also conceal and complicate. Understanding the multiple intentions behind this work requires a delicate unpacking of the everyday presence of uncertainty within Rwanda post-genocide and a careful consideration of the properties of materials through which troubling memories are made visible. These are inherently risky projects and thinking through the transformations that are enacted upon the recovered items invites fresh review of the potential for material remains of the dead to evoke destabilizing pasts or assist in the imagining of the future at a salient moment for Rwanda.