Upright Men

Français  / Kinyarwanda

For the Memory of the Genocide of Rwandan Tutsis
A Contemporary Art Project
by Bruce Clarke

In April 2014 the 20th commemoration of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda will take place.

Upright Men, Les Hommes Debout, Abantu Bahagaze Bemye, is a contemporary art memorial project designed by the visual artist Bruce Clarke. He proposes to represent in Rwanda in mural form, men, women, and children, larger than life – often 15 to 20 feet high - on the façades of places of memory and genocide massacre sites. The intention is to give presence to the victims, restoring their individuality, reaffirming their status in the human community. These figures visible to all, will be silent, yet incarnate silhouettes sketched yet with a strong affirmed presence, anonymous but familiar people, symbols of the dignity of people faced with the crime of crimes which attempted to annihilate a whole human community.

Coming soon

At an international level, the figures will be painted, hung or projected in places symbolic of memory and history; they will be the link between the community of Men and the victims and survivors of all the genocides and crimes against humanity representing the universality of the fight for life and human rights. For the 20th commemoration of the genocide, the symbol of Upright Men will be taken up around the world and projected on the evening of April 7 2014 on the façade of important buildings such as the United Nations in New York.

These symbolic presences will be precious guardians of the memory of what really happened so as none can deny it.


The philosophy of the project comes from the observation: a genocide can take place only when the cultural links that keep society together have been disintegrated. After the genocide, a work of cultural reconstruction is essential. Beyond the act of making visible and intelligible symbols, culture plays a part together with other metaphorical and spiritual tools in repairing and is essential to the healing processes. It is important to restore cultural forms and, a fortiori, by promoting the active involvement of people who become actors and supportive of the creative project.
The execution of the project will thus be a collective enterprise, based on the participation of Rwandan youths in the workshops dealing with training in art history and techniques and in collaboration with the University Arts Centre in Butare. This training will facilitate the collective elaboration of the images most appropriate to carry the message of force and dignity of a community standing upright.

These workshops will begin in early 2013 and will continue at different times until April 2014. They will contribute not only to the re-foundation of the bases of an autonomous cultural production, but also to place the work done in Rwanda in a larger art historical context of committed art: from Ernest Pignon-Ernest and Guernica and through the Mexican muralists. Through these different steps the meaning and importance will be diffused as extensively as possible and hopefully reach every hill and many people.

Conceived as a process where artistic creation is mixed with the problematic of memory, the workshop is an integral part of the project, It will help rebuild the foundations of an autonomous cultural production and will permit the replication of the Upright Men in as many memorial sites or highly symbolic places as possible, making the victims once again visible.