The Machete Pile, 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.