Gabrielle Spear is a poet and community organizer based in Queens and raised in Northwest Arkansas. She was named a Goucher College Kratz Summer Writing Fellow, a finalist in LUMINA’s 2017 Borders and Boundaries Nonfiction Contest judged by Leslie Jamison, and a Brooklyn Poets Fellow. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sukoon, Juke Joint Magazine, The Indianapolis Review, The Matador Review, Sonora Review, and fields magazine. You can find her on Twitter @gabsters93 and Instagram @verycuteasparagus.
In the fall of 2013, I spent a semester studying abroad in Rwanda, researching the genocide memorials, particularly the memorials (or lack thereof) in the village of Kibeho. “A World Betrayed” depicts a snapshot of Kibeho, a village with contested and holy history. In 1981, the Blessed Mary appeared to three Kibeho schoolgirls and foretold of genocide. In 1994, the Interahamwe slaughtered an estimated 20,000 Tutsis inside the Kibeho Parish Church (pictured in the photograph). A year later at least 4,000 Hutu refugees were massacred in the Kibeho refugee camp as part of the new regime’s collective retribution. “Forsaken” depicts a church memorial in the village of Ntarama, calling to mind Christ’s words on the cross: My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me. The dictator Paul Kagame, considered the savior of the 1994 genocide, continues to forsake the lives of Rwandans by placing dead, mummified bodies on display within a select number of churches across the country. It is his way of reminding Rwandans that their bodies can only be resurrected by the state.