Would you be able to forgive someone who killed your family?

Pieter Hugo went to Rwanda almost two decades after millions were killed during the genocide and photographed perpetrators and survivors together in one photo. He displays the different types of forgiveness that people can have for one another. Explaining that some of the pairs sat together and chatted about village gossip. Others agreed to take the photo and then parted ways, not exchanging much contact.

First Photo

The first image photographs Jean Pierre Karenzi, the perpetrator and Viviane Nyiramana, the survivor. Jean killed Vivianes father and three brothers. After begging for her forgiveness and building a house for her, she pardoned him. The photo shows Jean looking very sad and regretful, facing away from both the camera and Viviane. He is very ashamed of what he has done and clearly doesn’t forgive himself. Viviane is staring into the camera and has her hand on Karenzi’s back. She has no guilty conscience as she is looking straight into the camera. Her eyes are filled with sorrow from her losses. However it’s noticeable that she has forgiven Jean as she is touching him affectionately.

This seems like a case of full forgiveness, where the two would genuinely communicate with one another.

Second Photo

The second image photographs Godefroid Mudaheranwa, the perpetrator and Evasta Mukanyandwi, the survivor. Godefroid burned Evasta’s house and tried to kill her and her children, but luckily, they managed to escape. Evasta hated him for a long time. Eventually he came and knelt in front of her asking for forgiveness. His sincerity moved by her. Now she relies on him when she’s in times of trouble. The photo portrays them standing side by side. Both with stern faces, making it appear as if they don’t have a good relationship.

It is clear that Evasta has forgiven him. However, the photo makes it seem as if this is a situation where the forgiveness isn’t totally there.