The forgotten Batwa

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

Twenty years ago in Rwanda one of the most ferocious acts of modern ethnic cleansing took place: in six weeks the Hutu population slaughtered 800,000 of the Tutsi minority. The aftermath of the genocide is a complete restart; the government lead by the Tutsi promotes a policy of national reconciliation. A national identity policy is strongly encouraged and ethnic identity is abolished in contrast to the colonial period when Belgium encouraged ethnic differences to control the population. Today half of Rwanda national population was born after 1994 and they are neither Tutsi or Hutu but simply Rwandan citizens. Racism and discriminatory behaviour to any ethnic minority are seen as a crime and can lead to imprisonment. Education promotes the values of peace, and integration is part of the school curriculum. Many books, reportage and stories of Rwandan genocide have been publicized in the media, however very little is known of the Batwa ethnic minority. The Batwa are pygmies; an ancient population living in the lake district in the heart of central Africa. The Batwa are 1% of Rwanda’s population and 10,000 were killed by Hutu during the ethnic cleansing because they were thought to be friends of the Tutsi and another 10,000 fled the region at the time. They are the invisible forgotten minority and the injustice they suffer is still present and, regardless of Rwanda’s integration policy, the Batwa people are still considered a pariah. Between 2006 and 2011 the ancient region of lakes and forests where the Batwa had been living since ever got converted into tourism attraction sites because of the presence of gorillas. Batwa land has been confiscated and they now live in extremely poor conditions, usually surviving by harvesting the land of others or crafting small ceramic objects for the tourism industry. These photos of Batwa community were taken in February 2014 near to Congo border to testimony of their everyday life and poverty. (text by Luca Catalano Gonzaga).


A selection of photos from the archive of Luca Catalano Gonzaga is available as collector’s prints. The goal of print selling is to contribute to the realization of the photographic projects of Witness Image that narrate the great transformations of our time.