'Compassion in hell,' Northern Rwanda

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Melinda Kerr

Melbourne, Australia

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Small 7.4" x 12.0"
Medium 11.1" x 18.0"
Large 14.8" x 24.0"
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Artist's Description

I was in northern Rwanda in April 2007 as a volunteer with an aid group and we had stopped to talk with people at a local church. The town was Rhuengeri, it sits close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and has the unfortunate reputation as having been home to a number of those who perpetrated the horrific genocide of 1994.
The atmosphere in Rwanda is one of pervading ‘brokeness.’ Millions of orphans live side by side with those who tortured and massacred their families 14 few, short years ago. Millions more suffer the newer enemy – HIV Aids and countless others wander ghost like in a state it seems of perpetual shock, haunted by the past and overwhelmed by the concept of a future.
This was April. The official month of mourning. When people publicly face what privately never leaves them.
I was sitting on a step tired and desperate for fresh air when I looked into the crowd that inevitably gathered wherever we were.
This woman, is by my guess perhaps 30 and she is as are most, dirt poor.
I was absolutely transfixed by her and her child.
She seemed to me to sum up so much of what I saw.
Love and desperation and yes, compassion.
Her breast is bone dry and cracked and yet she tries to feed her baby. Perhaps it is the hope inherent in the action which feeds her.
At the same time, she looks totally preoccupied by her struggle for survival.
What is she thinking as she gazes into the middle ground?
My thought is, ‘where is the next meal.’ Where will she get it from? How will she share it? And upon finishing it, where will she find the next one?
I was overwhelmed by seeing the reality of those who live literally from hour to hour, day after exhausting day.
It confronted me then.
It continues to confront me now.
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Artwork Comments

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