In honour of Kigali cleaners

Tuesday February 18 2020


Images of women as captures by Murinzi. PHOTO | ANDREW. I KAZIBWE 

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Kigali is undoubtedly one of Africa’s cleanest cities. But who is behind this great work? This is the question Eric Murinzi, 27, seeks to answer through photography.

Murinzi’s venture into street photography dubbed Bonds and Brooms is another life changing story, which not only fronts his photography skills, but celebrates unsung heroes behind Kigali City’s cleanliness.

The exhibition adorning the walls of Kigali Centre of Photography in Kacyiru raises curiosity for its name, yet making way into the venue, one discovers more.

First was the exhibition’s launch on January 31, which attracted photography enthusiasts.

Beyond these tirelessly working men and women not only lays resilience and hard work, but stories of who they are, what they go through, and how they make both ends meet, which propels Murinzi to share more through the exhibition.

Bonds and Brooms features is inspired by Murinzi, a former Voice of America photojournalist, who in 2018 suffered from depression.


“This resulted from the much work we had, yet for close to six months we were not being paid due to the shutdown of American government was going through with the President Donald Trump administration issues,” he recalls.

Murinzi took a bold decision of quitting his job. Sitting home, confined while seeking ways of fighting the depression, he sought of a way.

“I decided to get out of the house, just to escape the thoughts, then move around the streets,” he said. Murinzi took with him a camera, then embarked on street photography.

Bumping into one of the women on the streets one morning, when he was walking, interacted with her, only to discover how she was switching posts to stand in for a sick colleague who was away.

But this wasn’t a usual sick leave for her colleague, it was more. “Her friend had been beaten up by the husband, she hadn’t reported about it, but only informed the friend to stand in for her at the work till she healed,” he said.

This became a reflective situation to Murinzi, hence the drive of capturing these women through photography.

“If everyone is talking about how beautiful the city is, yet no one tells the stories of the people behind this beauty, then somebody needs to do so,” he said.

The exhibition to last till February 25, represents images of elderly women captured in their day to day duties of cleaning the streets of Kigali.

Murinzi spontaneously captures them, with many dressed in labelled aprons holding brooms, sweeping roads, while others clean out pavements and water tunnels.

These are backed by brief captions of the women sharing some of their experiences, but withholding their names.

The images captured are in black and white theme, which Murinzi said are meant to convey the subjects of focus, than the background or surrounding.

In a setting where photography had been known for majorly beautified buildings, and vegetation, yet society has for long been furious towards anybody aiming a camera towards one, Murinzi too had a taste of the same custom.

“It took me time to finally get them into the frame, it was first a conversation, that lasted days and weeks, which I appreciated too,” he explains.

With him reporting each day, with his camera, but not