show aftermath of Rwandan genocide
By Matt Kelly
pictures are stark, brutal: rows of bleached human skulls, a dried
skeleton still wearing a football jersey, cows grazing on a mass
mark the site of a massive grave where hundreds of Rwandans
student Ryann Collins, 22, captured the
images in Rwanda this year while interviewing survivors of the
1994 ethnic violence there. Collins, a foreign affairs major and
a Harrison grant winner, was an intern with the United Nations
genocide tribunal from January to July, taking statements from
survivors for the prosecutors preparing cases against members
of Rwandas 1994 government. She was a legal intern, though
she had no legal training or experience.
people she found were mostly devastated by what had happened to
had mixed feelings as I was interviewing the witnesses,
said Collins. They had been raped, seen their families slaughtered,
and now they had AIDs and internal bleeding and all they wanted
was an aspirin for their headache.
dont care. Theyve had these people do these things
to them and they live the harshest lives. What the tribunal sought
was insignificant in comparison to what they needed.
said that 10 percent of the population, 800,000 to 1 million people,
were killed with machetes and hoes in 100 days.
grew up in Switzerland, France and New Jersey, the daughter of
an AT&T employee. In her first spring at U.Va., a friend from
New Jersey died, leaving her the feeling that life is precious
realized I could die at any moment, so I wanted to do something
exotic, she said. Africa seemed exotic.
with a self-described passion for human rights, applied for the
internship almost as a lark. She had spent time in Tanzania in
1998, before the embassy bombing, teaching English to primary
school students in a rural area.
the time she received notice of her acceptance from the U.N.,
she was not sure if she still wanted to go. She took a long walk
around a lake in France with her father as she slowly broke the
news to him. He tried to talk her out of it, but eventually acquiesced,
reasoning that he was familiar with Africa and had friends there
in case she got into trouble.
U.N. dictated when students could participate, telling Collins
that she would be there from January to July. She took a few classes
last fall, took leave for the spring and is finishing up her degree
applied for her Harrison grant after she had been accepted in
the intern program. That $3,000 covered my living expenses
in Africa, she said.
self-taught photographer, she said it had not been her intent
to take pictures when she left. Once there, though, she wanted
to share her experience with the world, overcoming feelings that
she was disrespecting the dead by taking their pictures.
I was, in Nikes and jeans and ball cap, in a country I dont
belong in or understand, taking pictures like it was an art show,
she said. I decided to bring it back, to tell these peoples
stories. That made it seem OK to me.
has turned into an art show, with Collins exhibiting her photographs
at Fayerweather Gallery. She has also toyed with the idea of putting
her photos and experiences together into a book.
for the U.N. had many benefits, Collins said, such as access to
health care and diplomatic immunity. The only American among 15
international interns, she lived with five others, forming fast
said she wants to continue to pursue her interest in human rights,
working for the State Department, or the U.N. or the Red Cross,
or as a journalist.