Rivera Kalenzo

2001
oil on canvas
20" x 10"
Unsold
525 (unframed)
Rivera Kalenzo

BURUNDI: When Rivera Kalenzo learned that soldiers had attacked the Bucana market in Burundi, she had no time to even grieve the deaths of her four eldest children. Determined to protect the remaining two, she fled to Tanzania in an attempt to escape the brutality that had long-accompanied Burundi's civil war. In this conflict, the designation of civilian, or even child, offers little protection to a populace subject to terror and intimidation by government forces and opposition groups alike. Hundreds of unarmed citizens are murdered each year, some shot or bayoneted to death while working their fields or taking refuge in their own homes. Children, abducted from primary schools and Tanzanian refuge camps, have been forcibly recruited as soldiers by both government and opposition armies. Those who manage to escape can be subsequently arrested by government forces for "collaboration" with opposition groups and may be detained in adult prisons for years without trial. In a nation where any side can be the enemy, desperate parents like Rivera Kalenzo have negotiated army minefields on the country's border to join the nearly half-million who have sought asylum in neighboring Tanzania. Though the overcrowded, restrictive, and often dangerous refugee camps that mark their destination may offer little more than survival, for a mother protecting the life of her child, survival is the only option.