Oliveira 2011 Genocide

Title Information

Author: Claudia Oliveira

Title: Fathoming the Unfathomable

Subtitle: Gertrude Kearns and the Visual Representation of the Genocide in Rwanda

Thesis: M.A. Thesis, Concordia University

Year: August 2011

Pages: x + 86pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century, 21st Century | Rwandan History | Representations: Art; Types: Genocidal Rape / Rwandan Genocide

Full Text

Link: Spectrum Research Repository, Concordia University (Free Access)

Additional Information


»The visual representation of genocide demands a response to many thought-provoking questions. For instance, how should one consider the use of mass murder as the subject for a work of art? How does one confront the ethical dilemma of aestheticism in artworks that depict human suffering? How can an artist avoid exploiting its human subject or sensationalizing genocide?
The following text aims to consider the ethics of visual representation of genocide and apply this theoretical framework in the consideration of a series of works, UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda by artist Gertrude Kearns, which concerns the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Through her use of camouflage-patterned nylon canvas, Kearns has produced a powerful yet subdued depiction of the atrocities committed by the génocidaires. This text suggests that the artist has incorporated former Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire in her work in order to, in part bypass the challenges of secondary witnessing and encourage viewer identification and projection; a notion based on Marianne Hirsch’s theory of ‘Postmemory’. Drawing from various email exchanges, an extensive interview with the artist and research material (Holocaust and Rwanda-related), the following text will consider the UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda series as a defiant example of contemporary art; one which serves as a testament to our common humanity and the horrors of our complicity.« (Source: Spectrum Research Repository)


  Abstract (p. iii)
  Acknowledgements (p. v)
  Dedication (p. vi)
  List of Illustrations (p. viii)
  Introduction (p. 1)
  The 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and Romé Dallaire (p. 4)
  Visual Representation of Genocide: Barbaric? (p. 19)
  Gertrude Kearns and the UNdone: Dallaire/Rwanda series (p. 28)
  Dallaire UNdone – The Canadianization of the Genocide in Rwanda (p. 48)
  Conclusion (p. 58)
  References (p. 60)
  Illustrations (p. 66)

Wikipedia: Rwandan Genocide

Added: November 9, 2013 – Last updated: November 9, 2013