Short Shrift: A Photo Essay

In early 2008 Dutch photojournalist Marielle van Uitert traveled to Rwanda to document the lives of Batwa people, also known as Pygmies. Rwanda was ravaged by genocide in 1994, and the scars of that conflict still mark the country, but the Batwa, who were marginalized before the genocide, have suffered even more than most. They lost a far greater proportion of their population than other ethnic groups in the country during the conflict. The forests on which they depended for their livelihoods and cultural context have largely been disrupted and the Batwa have moved into settled areas, living on the fringe of Hutu and Tutsi communities. Bitterly discriminated against, the Batwa can only make a meager living by making and selling pots. They cannot even self-identify as an Indigenous group because the post-genocide laws in Rwanda prohibit any ethnic categories in the country. The photographs collected here show Batwa life in a pottery-producing workshop, a school, and a medical clinic. (Note: For the safety of the Batwa in the photographs, the names of individuals have not been included in the captions, at their request.)

Widely praised for her bold approach to subject matter, Marielle van Uitert has covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has produced essays on the Roma, the Maasai, the Bedouin, and many others. For more of van Uitert’s work, visit her website at

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