The album weights light in her hands. Plastic covers. Pictures over pictures. From time to time in your life, pictures tend to replace a whole story. It is as if you can’t remember the happenings but know something has changed in these moments because the picture makes you feel nostalgic.
There is a saying in the left corner of her home’s living room, telling us: “Come my lover and take what I have hidden to all men for you.” Someone wants to tell his story. Listen, let her speak.
It is a black-white photography of a young woman, pregnant, crying. She is married to a Burundian who already has a wife. She didn’t know that when she put on her ring. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are going to live separately now – she is expecting a child and unable to feed them both. But it means they are going to live separately one day… A day which is not far away.
She will move back to her homeland, Rwanda, live with her grandparents. Her husband follows her, asks for forgiveness. They try again, go to live in Kimihurura, Kigali, where the second child gets born.
The second picture is taken by the grandmother.
The situation at her home became difficult, one man, two wives, hunger, fights. She decides to move out again and never come back, no matter what happens.
Her grandmother provides shelter to her for two more times. Between these stays the woman experiences domestic violence from her second husband. Life becomes complicated again when the grandmother passes away.
In the third picture you can see children sweeping through time. There is this woman, again, a little older, time always leaves its marks. She is standing in the doors frame of her house, observing the Littles:
“Whenever I see the children of this generation we are living in right now and whenever I behold the life they are living, I use to dream a little… I think I would have had a future like they do. I would have had a chance, too.”
“We took this picture at my last evening at home. Here, my grandparents and my uncle, the people I’m grown up with. Our neighbours have always told me to leave and find her, ‘You don’t belong here, girl…’, that is what they used to say. When I heard my mum was in Kigali I decided to search her.
I settled down there even if I never found her. And when my house was nearly finished I got birth of my third and fourth child. Few years later, Oliva was born.”
The vendee of her mum’s last goat has borrowed the camera to take this picture of a broken, lonely woman. She is walking away from the viewer towards the opening doors of sterile hospital. Oliva will be her last child. Seeing her being ill for many times almost breaks her heart. Ant to heal her again and again cost her so much money she doesn’t have…
Years later, when it was time to go to school, she registered her. Red brick stone. White walls. Blackboards. For a short period of time. Oliva stopped studying for 3 years. Then she joined the Catch-up program until she achieved P5. Today she goes to a normal school, Root Foundation pays the school fees. Her mother couldn’t bear that load.
Oliva pages forward. This picture is taken by Muragwa Bienvenue, the Director of Root Foundation. He always finds her carrying around this blue book. She wants to be an amazing person that knows many languages. Even if it’s hard for her to study. But the heart wants what it wants.
Some of the following photographs are of those kind of pictures you can impossibly relate to a single date. Maybe it isn’t necessary. They are taken by feelings. Here is the first of Oliva’s collage:
Somehow, you can’t see anything. Grey, cold air. The movement of raindrops. Her mum is ill of asthma and every time it gets colder, her disease is becoming worse. She always fears to loose her. They can impossibly finance the medicine every time… But behind this invisible fog lies a stormy light, the one that is floating the sky after a thunderstorm. And this is her pride. “Still having her with me.”
The second one is of her dad, from a distance. She wishes to meet him once. Her mum is talking about him often and she wants to know who he was, who he is. “When you met my mum, was it just fun or did you think about it? And why did you leave us so early, when I was learning to eat?”
In this third picture, someone zoomed in her older sister’s face. Expectations. Wisdom? “Even if you finish school, it is necessary to have something after which brings income and can support our family. I wish we could live in another standard and not poor like this. I wish I were able to push this. Sometimes I am so scared by the situation my family lives in.”
Inconspicuously, a photograph of Oliva is pinned at the wall above her bed. It is taken at church, Kagugu. If you could ask God one question what would it be? “Is there any time me and my family will have a better life?” She is sitting close to her mum. Their ways of praying is different: While her mother’s face is characterized by deep, wise faith in God, Oliva still has a juvenile hope when praying.
This last picture is vague, a little overexposed. It is impossible to clearly distinguish the colours from each another. But one thing about it is for sure: The time had taken it.
We can see Oliva, far away in future. She is standing at the end of a red, sandy road. The viewer can’t see the world behind. He can imagine her smiling, waving, carrying a baby on her back. But these are assumptions, hopes, maybe. Only God knows the future of Susuri. Susuri, a nickname from days of her early childhood. She doesn’t see herself in studying even if she fears this might mean to give up her dream of knowing many languages. It’s too hard. Not manageable. She always talks about handcrafts and making this becoming a profitable job… What she is really good at is making handcrafts and dancing.
It is impressive to watch her move when one is playing the drums. You might loose trust in your eyes. Probably, Oliva will be the one she is dreaming about, probably a dancer, an artist.
But, of course, some things will stay invisible forever. She closes the cover. We have seen all the pictures inside the album now. And we need to remind ourselves about the most important thing about her life: The story isn’t over yet.