“In April 1994 between 800 000 and a million Tutsis were murdered in Rwanda. Six years old at the time, I was too young to comprehend world news, unaware of the wave of violence sweeping through a country only a short flight from my home in South Africa,” Duran Levinson writes on his site
“21 years later I arrive in Kigali by myself. I have a travel backpack, two analogue cameras, an empty notebook and no idea what to expect. First came the offer to travel to Rwanda to work on a commercial and spend two weeks exploring the country. The next step was getting onto the first available flight. I haven’t had time to think beyond that. All I know is that my plan is to take pictures and document life in present day Rwanda. I don’t know what stories I’ll stumble upon and what experiences I’ll have. I’m just another tourist with a camera…”
Duran is always on a quest to find stories worth telling and he enjoys taking images that document life in a unique way. From the moment he arrived in Kigali City he was surprised by what he encountered. “The streets are pristine, the green rolling hills and endless valleys are picture perfect as I whizz downtown on the back of a moto-taxi. Roadside plastic gorillas are my welcoming party as we dart through the traffic – them, and the signs urging people to “Kwibuka”, the Kinyarwanda work for remember,” says Duran.
A long-time analogue enthusiast, Duran shot the entire series on film. He captured some amazing portraits and scenes in from the city of Rwanda all the way to the villages. His first official stop was downtown Kigali City, a very busy and chaotic place where people are seen bartering on every block. While in Kigali, he visited Camp Kigali, a memorial to the 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers who were killed right there on the 17th of April 1994. Towards his last few days in the country, he drove towards the border and Lake Kivu to get some insight about the rural life there. He then travelled all the way up to Nyamirambo, which is known for it’s rich culture and ability to merge art, religion and diversity seamlessly. He also visited “California City”, a neighbourhood he describes as “one of the darker and more interesting hoods of Nyamirambo.” He spent his final days in Rwanda shooting a music video at an abandoned zoo for one of the local rappers, where a group of kids and other rappers came to join in on the fun.
When describing his trip to Rwanda, Duran emphasises one thing: tenacity. This, he says, “is the theme that followed me to the end of the trip. Rwanda gives me hope that countries dealing with instability and turmoil can go on to heal and produce a positive future for all citizens. I know what I have seen and photographed, and I hope I am telling that story.”