Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

The Machete Pile, Rwanda

with 11 comments

machete-rwanda

Many photos of machetes are taken in Rwanda, but none was as dramatic as this Jim Nachtwey photo taken at the tailend of the conflict. Machetes have been a weapon of choice in Rwanda; an agricultural tool found in most Rwandan households, it was easily accessible. 

The Rwanda Genocide intensified in 1994 with the Hutu tribes hunting down the members of the Tutsi tribe who had ruled the rival Hutus for centuries as feudal overlords. In addition to killing millions, the crisis drove millions across the border and internally displaced many too. However, with some international intervention, the Tutsi-ruled RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) came back to power. This in turn led many Hutus to flee for the fear of reprisals.

The Nachtwey photo, taken at the Rwandan-Zaire border, lacks the killers and victims. However, the sheer number of machetes in this pile–abandoned by the Hutus who fled across the border after the atrocities–overwhelms the viewer.  Without blood or gore, Nachtwey has shown as how power an inanimate object can be. 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 13, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Posted in War

Tagged with ,

11 Responses

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  1. Actually the machetes were specially imported from China and distributed among the militiamen in advance.

    Robert

    December 3, 2009 at 3:12 am

  2. The use of the word tribe to describe either the Hutu or Tutsi is both clumsy and inaccurate, the misrepresentation of this as some kind of tribal conflit is exactly the reasoning used by the West to stand back and do nothing as the genocide continued. I understand that the focus of this page is iconic images, and not historical accuracy, but the perpetuation of the tribe myth clouds any further understanding of what caused one of the most brutal episodes in modern history, and therefore inhibits our ability to recognise and prevent any similar future catastrophes.

    Duncan

    February 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm

  3. yes the information is very inaccurate and yes the west did use this false terms as a excuse not to do anything about the mass slaughters in rwanda. this event is something that make you not proud of being american. Turned out the strongest country was the weakest in this case.

    tenarius

    March 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    • Why is the US always charged with playing Robin Hood and referee in the global-conflict market? Rwandans couldn’t control themselves, so the Americans should’ve been able to do so? People complain and point fingers when the US does nothing…they do the same — if not worse — when the US gets involved. Others need to learn to paddle their own canoes and stop depending on the Americans to interject themselves.

      Ellen

      May 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      • Read your history before making comments.

        Amy Batchelor

        September 24, 2013 at 1:03 am

  4. Check out a book about the genocide. “we wish to inform you, you will be killed with your familes”

    Great book!

    Shane Cauley Cheyenne,WY

    shane cauley

    May 15, 2010 at 7:12 pm

  5. […] Photo Credit : Here […]

  6. I’ve always wondered about one thing? Just before the crisis, Hutu extremists put in an order for aprox. 518,000 machetes to top up the amount of cheap weapons available for the wholesale slaughter. Which company, from what country, filled that order? Does anyone know?

    shovington

    March 3, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    • In The movie Hotel Rwanda says that many of those machetes were given by the ONU to the Hutus who were farmers mainly of coffee beans so they could use them in there daily chores…

      Ricardo

      October 11, 2015 at 3:20 am

  7. […] The Rwanda Genocide intensified in 1994 with the Hutu tribes hunting down the members of the Tutsi tribe who had ruled the rival Hutus for centuries as feudal overlords. In addition to killing millions, the crisis drove millions across the border and internally displaced many too. However, with some international intervention, the Tutsi-ruled RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) came back to power. This in turn led many Hutus to flee for the fear of reprisals. (click here) […]


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