The Nyamata site is located in Eastern Province. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich except Photographs 5-15 © Kigali Memorial Centre.

The Nyamata Church Genocide Memorial stands just off that town’s dusty but bustling main street. Thousands of Tutsis had been herded into the relatively inhospitable surrounding Bugesera region in the wake of the mwami’s 1959 death and subsequent Revolution. The area was thus disproportionately affected by the genocide. Some 10,000 people alone were killed in and around the grounds of Nyamata Church from April 14 to April 19, 1994.

The outwardly typical brick church is silent today. White and purple memorial adornments lead the visitor along a stone path from the gates into the church. At the main door, one waits to be led through the grounds by survivor guides who provide solemn, minimal narration of the incomprehensible site. The corrugated tin roof is visibly pocked by innumerable bullet holes. There are no more physical remains inside the expansive main area of worship, however the altar’s white sheet covering still bears bloodstains.

The church basement, accessible down steep steps in the back, has been converted into a permanent catacomb. On either side of its very narrow hallways stand racks of skulls, bones, and coffins. Above the church’s main entrance is a banner in Kinyarwanda, meaning “If you had known me, and you had really known yourself, you would not have killed me.”

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.