beauty and ashes – ashes

The Red Cross Museum in Geneva Museum in Geneva is a place that people should experience at least once in their lifetime. The world is so war-hungry, so bloodthirsty, that sometimes, we need forceful reminder that in war, there are no real winners, only losers.

You are welcomed to the Musee International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge (that’s French for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum) by ‘The Petrified’, huddled at the entrance.


They are a group of life-sized figures, shrouded, so that they appear featureless, in honour of the faceless victims of human rights violations, by Swiss artist Carl Bucher. From there, every step through the museum is a step steeped in the painful memories of hundreds of thousands of people. Sometimes, the exhibits are flat, two dimensional displays that still tell a powerful story through their descriptive labels. Sometimes, they are more interactive; holographic-type videos in which the subject is standing  with their hand stretched out, palm facing you, and if you put your palm on theirs, they start to tell you their story which you hear through your headset.

The museum is a place of tears. In Srebrenica, Ratko Mladic systematically selects 8000 boys and men aged 12 – 60yrs and slaughters them. And I think ‘Asaba‘.

Slobodan Milosevic is the central character in this war and is described as:

‘a former Communist who had turned to nationalism and religious hatred to gain power. He began by inflaming long-standing tensions between Serbs and Muslims in the independent provence of Kosovo. Orthodox Christian Serbs in Kosovo were in the minority and claimed they were being mistreated by the Albanian Muslim majority. Serbian-backed political unrest in Kosovo eventually led to its loss of independence and domination by Milosevic’ 


Something about this reminds me too much of Nigeria. A very uncomfortable feeling.

A large room filled with metal shelves, endless rows of small boxes. Each box holds a name card and documents, pieces of unfinished puzzles that hundreds of thousands of people became in the First World War.

Then I’m standing in front of a wall. I don’t know how high it is, but as far up as my gaze can reach, it is covered by rows and rows of pictures of missing children, lost in the Rwandan genocide. Finally, the tears break over the levee of my iron will and I turn my back to the wall and give them rein for a minute.


Somewhere in this world, TRU:244 may be a grown man. Or he may have died long ago. He may remember his family, his former life in Rwanda. Or he may not. We will never know.

And the beat goes on.

To walk through this place is to be convinced that those incessantly braying for a war have never lived through one. No one lives through these horrors and hungers for more.

To walk here is to realize that the ‘International Community’ really doesn’t give two hoots… well, not at first. Unless they have a horse they think might be gored to death in your war. ‘Horse’ is code for a lot of things – copper, diamonds, oil e.t.c. Other than that, you’re all perfectly welcome to kill yourselves since you don’t have the brains God gave a chicken.


It is scary how almost all the wars that have happened have similar roots, similar issues and yet we never learn. It’s even scarier now that it has evolved and become more sophisticated. Someone can sit down in their office and ‘enter coordinates’ for a missile,  which is actually war-speak for painting a giant bull’s-eye on men, women an children who are thousands of miles away, without having to directly confront mangled limbs and spilled guts directly.

To visit the museum is to ask ‘Why?’


Yet, I also found a few surprises in this place and learnt a little about the human spirit.

To be continued…



This post has been two days in the making, though no fault of mine!

Happy International Museum Day (this was actually yesterday). Museums are one of my favourite places in the world, unfortunately there are no proper museums in my country. That’s why I go photo-crazy when I get the opportunity to. Do you visit museums? You should absolutely go, you would be amazed.

This post did not start life out as a two-part post but life takes us where it will… C’est la vie!

Cheers to the weekend!   



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