In 2006, Jonathan Torgovnik worked on a photographic essay, on the children born as a result of rape during the genocide there in 1994.
Many Tutsi women were forced to watch their husbands killed right in front of them, and then were brutally and repeatedly raped by Hutu militias. They often contracted AIDS and gave birth to children, who were at the time unwanted. Their woes were exacerbated by their own tribe’s rejecting both mother and child because the child was the product of mixed parentage. These little family units received little or no help or comfort.
Jonathan’s photographs were published in the magazine Stern in Germany, but also were compiled as a book published by Aperture Foundation, New York, 2009, titled Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape. In 2018, Jonathan returned to re-photograph the mothers and children who are now 24 years old. The mothers have now disclosed to their children the circumstances of how they were born, and the children are speaking for the first time reflecting on all the years of not knowing who their father is and being called “children of the killers”. Some of those pictures were published in the New York Times in a full-page spread in the Sunday Review section on March 31st, and are illustrated in this email. The hardness of these children’s and mother’s lives are clearly written on their faces.
When the article with the photographs appeared in Stern, Jonathan was interviewed, for a sidebar supplement to the article, by an editor who asked him what could be done for these children? After some moments of consideration, Jonathan said that the mothers all expressed to him their desire for their children to have education so they could develop skills and provide for themselves in the future.
The article was published in the magazine and a few weeks went by, and the readers of Stern Magazine have contributed close to $250,000 to help the mothers and the children’s education.
Jonathan was flabbergasted, and together with Jules Shell founded Foundation Rwanda, a 501c3 charity which is still active today.
Since the foundation started in 2007, hundreds of these children have received support from Foundation Rwanda, and the children have now graduated from secondary school, and some have enrolled in university studies.
Alan Klotz Gallery still represents Jonathan’s work. Prints of the mother and children as well as solo portraits of the children are available through the gallery. Click here to see a selection of available prints. You might also want to make a direct contribution to Foundation Rwanda which can be done online here or you may contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Klotz Gallery
740 West End Avenue, Suite 52
New York, NY 10025