During a journey in Uganda I got confronted with the cruel Rwandan genocide of 1994. Back in Belgium I wanted to know more about this hideous scar of our history. I started reading books, watched documentaries in which witnesses described the atrocities that took place. I was particularly shocked by the fact that this conflict could erupt so quickly and easily. Between 800.000 and 1.000.000 million people were slaughtered over the course of 100 days.
Something that struck me in particular, was the fact that not many people knew about this. Especially people of my age. Some had heard something about it vaguely, but that was it. Despite the fact that Belgian had played a big role in the creation of this conflict, it seemed that Belgium (and the World) had slowly forgotten about it.
I believe that any society could be the victim of a sudden outburst of violence. We should be aware of this. I visualized this in these sculptures in two ways. First of all, I made the frames similar to that of toy model airplane kits. Where you simply click each part out of the frame and you’re ready to go. On top of that I used magnets to attach the machetes to the steal frame. So you can simply grab a machete out of the frame. Just like it was that easy to grab a machete from your house and start killing, back in 1994. All of a sudden this piece of art could change into a lethal weapon. You could be a victim, you could even turn into an aggressor. Violence, aggressiveness are always lurking around any corner. We should always be aware of this.
An interesting detail is the ‘made in China’ logo that is visible on several blades. This refers to the fact that the Rwandan government planned this genocide precisely. In the months leading to the genocide, the Rwandan government imported about 400.000 machetes from China.
To make these sculptures I went to Rwanda and Uganda myself to collect the machetes. To collect them, I bought a bunch of new ones and we started driving around Kampala, Uganda to exchange new machetes for used ones. 5 days later I arrived in Brussels with 40 machetes in my luggage. Very tired but with a lot of energy to finally start my project!
Pictured above is Sculpture #1 (series of 10) of Machete Season. The machete, a popular household tool, was the weapon of choice to kill ‘the cockroaches’: the name that was given to the Tutsi (and moderate Hutu) people. Materials: Metal and authentic Rwandan and Ugandan machetes.