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Niet beschikbaar in
December 2008

Jonathan Torgovnik’s award-winning portrait series - 'Intended Consequences' - about the children born of rapes during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 has now been released as a multimedia film on the MediaStorm website. The feature comprises a mix of video, stills, audio and text and tells the stories of the mothers, their hopes and fears for their future, and those of the children who serve as a daily reminder of the trauma they underwent.

The project first came into being when Jonathan Torgovnik went to Africa in 2006 for Newsweek with the magazine’s health editor to report on the 25th anniversary of the indentification of HIV/AIDS. Whilst in Rwanda Torgovnik came across Margaret who, in an incredibly moving two-hour interview, told him of what she had undergone. After this single session, he became determined to do something to bring the plight of these women, who are doubly ostracised in their communities and even by their own families because of the twin stigmas of having HIV/AIDS and having been raped.

© Jonathan Torgovnik

Torgovnik's portraits of 30 of the estimated 20,000 women to have borne children following the systematic rape of Tutsi women by Hutu militiamen during the 100 day genocide of 1994 have garnered awards ranging from winning Britain’s National Portrait Gallery Photographic Portrait Prize to a $20,000 Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. As well as taking portraits of the women and their children, Torgovnik recorded and transcribed audio testimonies with the aid of translator Geoffrey Ngiruwonsanga.

After the second trip, Torgovnik ran into photojournalist Brian Storm, founder of the MediaStorm website, who immediately grasped the importance of the project and determined to help to raise awareness of the Rwandan women and their children and asked if he was shooting any video.

Friend and videographer Jules Shell shot video to accompany the stills and audio and then passed the material on to MediaStorm who put the project in the hands of producer Chad A. Stevens. Stevens reviewed the testimonies for well over a month before coming up with a structure for the feature.

Although he has certainly felt the power of the 'Intended Consequences' project in terms of the emotional toll it has taken on him, he prefers, like the women, to look for the good. Torgovnik told CPN: “I look at the hope and the empowerment of the women, rather than think that somewhere inside all of us there is the possibility that we might be capable of committing such atrocities.”

He determined that the individual testimonies were important and started by melding the audio, video and text components together to allow the womens' stories to be told without repetition between them, so the final video could also be viewed as a whole rather than as a series of parts. Three Tutsi women who now live in the USA voiced the testimonies of the women. It was felt important to get Rwandan women to tell the stories, not only because of the way the voice sounds but also because they could better understand the experiences the women in the project had undergone. The process took eight months.

Jonathan Torgovnik.

Jonathan Torgovnik.

Whilst this was underway, Torgovnik and Shell determined that more than publicity of the women’s plight was required. Torgovnik determined that despite their sometimes ambivalent, or at least very complicated, emotional attachment to their children, a common factor in the testimonies of the women was that they felt their futures were inextricably linked with the future fate of their children.

As one mother, Bernadette, put it: “Even now, getting books, a pen, a uniform for my son, it’s providence. Sometimes my son sits here for a whole term because I have failed to get books and pens. If there is anything that tortures me, it is the future of my son.”

When Jonathan Torgovnik pushed this question in his interviews with all the mothers, they indicated that if they had a magic wand, the thing they wanted above all for their children was for them to receive a decent secondary education so they would be able to care for themselves and support themselves in the future; a future which the mothers thought it was unlikely they would live long enough to see.

With this in mind, and given the fact that it takes $400 to provide school fees, housing, food, shoes and transportation, Shell and Torgovnik set up the FoundationRwanda (

The foundation has three complementary goals: 1) Providing funding for their secondary school education. 2) Linking their mothers to existing psychological and medical support services. 3) Raising awareness about the consequences of genocide and sexual violence through photography and new media.

The first of these is getting underway in January 2009 with the first 150 children heading off to secondary school supported by the foundation. In 2009, if enough donations can be raised, they hope to send 10 times that many kids to a decent secondary school education.

© Jonathan Torgovnik

The second goal is underway and the release of the MediaStorm feature marks the latest effort to raise awareness of the issues and the human cost still being paid as the 15th anniversary of the genocide is reached in March and April 2009.

As well as the release of the online video, there’s a travelling exhibition of the stills, which will go on show at the UN in 2009 and the Aperture foundation is publishing a book of the portraits in 2009.

The project has rather taken over the lives of Jonathan Torgovnik and Jules Shell. Torgovnik has put a lot of personal money into funding the project and Shell is now administering the foundation on a full-time basis.

As to Jonathan Torgovnik, he doesn’t know what his next project will be: “I don’t like to decide in advance where a project will go, it’s so personal and it depends on the subject. I would like it to be even more important than this one, if it’s possible.”

Canon was the key supporter in producing Jonathan Torgovik’s multimedia piece 'Intended Consequences'.