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Genocidaires, by Helen Wilson

Oil painting depicting genocide in Rwanda


Genocidaires , a painting by Helen Wilson.

This painting is based on a still from the feature film 100 Days, directed by Nick Hughes. I saw the still in the East African newspaper I bought when I arrived in Rwanda. The image I have painted sums up the horror I felt when coming back from the genocide sites. The particular act of killing shown in the picture took place in Nyamata Church, where 20,000 people died. The brush strokes and colours suggest extreme violence, and I wanted to capture the sheer hell and inhumanity of what went on. I did not witness the genocide, I witnessed its aftermath. However, visiting the church gave me a sense of the wanton destruction of human life. The painting has three elements. Firstly, the madness of the violence which we see in the frenzied killing on the left of the picture. We cannot see clearly what is depicted, but we see the machete raised and know that people are being murdered. Secondly, the two figures on the right hand side represent people who watched their families being slaughtered, some of whom had to participate in the killing. The third element is the spectre-like figure in the background, which represents the world watching and knowing what is going on, but choosing to do nothing.

Words of the artist.

Helen Wilson is an artist who lives and works in Bristol.
In 2002, she visited Rwanda, where she met surviviors of the genocide in 1994.
Genocide means the planned or ordered killing of a racial or cultural group.

As a result of this visit, Helen returned,
…with a clear mission: to express through my artwork as much about Rwanda as it is today. I would paint the Rwanda I had seen, the beauty and the tragedy, and the dignity and grace of its people in the aftermath of the genocide.

These paintings formed a temporary display at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery in 2003, called Making Sense – a Rwandan Story.

Creator: Helen Wilson

Date: 2002-3

Copyright: Copyright Helen Wilson

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