||e are accustomed to seeing images,
flickering across our television screens of anguish and horror from far off lands - images
of mass proportions and scale, of people migrating, suffering and dying, images that have
been emanating lately from central Africa. In a sense, this portrayal has almost become a
cliche, because it depersonalizes the suffering. Missing from this is the central element
of any story: the individual, the child, the woman, the man, who amid the masses suffer,
succumb and survive in their own private ways.
To tell the story of the plight of individuals caught up in the tragedy that is Rwanda and Burundi - a region of the world where civil war and civil strife have claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people in the last three years - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in December 1996 sent photojournalist Martha Rial with her sister Amy, a public-health nurse with the International Rescue Committee, to Kibondo, Tanzania, a place worlds apart from the Murrysville, Pennsylvania, home where they grew up.
Martha's pictures are a gripping portrait of a region in crisis - a portrait, indeed, because they show the faces and emotions of people adrift, swept up in historic events.