May 4, 2012
On Friday I met up with Timo, an intern I had met during his orientation in Eschborn the day before he left for Rwanda. The connection came full circle as we met up again in Rwanda for dinner at his house. As we were sitting around the dinner table, two temporary flatmates, Steph Fellows and Morris Weintraub, arrived in a flurry. They were accompined with a local Kigali named Ronald, who was to become their new translator.
Steph works for an art-focused non-profit and Mo is a photgrapher and they had arrived in Kigali to start the first leg of their new project, "Rwanda Walk". Their goal is to "walk 200 miles across Rwanda, delivering personal letters to the people we meet along the way – many of whom have never received a piece of mail in their lives."
I am curious to see how two white people - one of whom will be photographing everything - will be received in communities that are so apart from the worlds experienced and reflected in the letters they are bringing. I would be totally suspicious if someone came into my neighborhood and asked to talk and reflect with me about a random letter from a stranger, and I can only imagine what it would be like in a community where electricity is a rarity (much less internet or telephones) and in a country that experienced genocide less than 20 years ago. It also raises questions of what exactly the developed world could or should do to connect with those in developing countries, and what outcome exactly we are searching for when we undertake such project.
Both Steph and Mo are aware of these questions and have themselves reflected on them and much more quite a bit, so if anyone is well placed to try this experiment, it's them. They are not blindly coming in and expecting to be welcomed with open arms, but they have hope that some will be open to this exchange that will create a unique work of crowd-sourced art and inspiration.
I've been following their three-week trip and if you're also interested, you can follow them at: http://rwandawalk.com/. Click on the photographs at the bottom of their webpage to see their stories. A sample of Mo's work: