Burundi is a small, landlocked, and little known nation of 12 million people located along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika between the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
In 1993 it suffered the same genocidal violence that afflicted Rwanda, only in Burundi the war lasted for more than a decade, took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and reduced the county to one of the poorest and hungriest in the world. Deogratias Niyizonkiza, then a medical student in the capital of Bujumbura, barely escaped with his life and arrived in New York City as a refugee. He struggled for months in homelessness and low wage jobs but was eventually befriended by a generous couple who took him in and sponsored his education. After several years of university training in public health and medicine, Deo returned to his home village in southern Burundi to create Village Health Works – a clinic, a school, and a group of economic cooperatives on a 25 acre campus in the village of Kigutu. Today, Deo’s vision is burgeoning into the construction of a $20 million women’s hospital that will bring modern health care to an area where nearly 5% of women die in pregnancy or childbirth during their lifetimes and 60% of the population is chronically malnourished. For the past two years, I have volunteered photography services to Village Health Works to document its work and the people it serves.
“The Road from Bujumbura” depicts the 100 km journey from the capital to the campus of Village Health Works along a dusty, potholed route that traces the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Jammed with bicycles carrying all manner of goods from pallets of brick to jerrycans of palm oil, it serves as one of the major commercial arteries in the country. Despite the grinding poverty – 80% of the population earns less than $2 a day – the people one encounters on this road, like most Burundians, are hard-working, generous, and carry themselves with uncommon style and grace.
About William Bullard
I have been an avid photographer since childhood, taking inspiration first from my great-grandfather who photographed ships and gold mines in northern California at the turn of the century. A gift of an Edward Weston monograph sent me on a long journey hitchhiking throughout Europe with a view camera on my back. Later encounters and workshops with Minor White, Harry Callahan, and, most recently, Peter Turnley brought me gradually but fervently into street photography –a form that I have devoted myself to in both urban and rural settings for the last six years. Until my retirement in 2017, I served as a dean and teacher of English and photography for Montclair-Kimberley Academy (New Jersey), San Francisco University High School, and Collegiate School (New York). I received my B.A. from Wesleyan University and Ph.D. in English from Boston College. Over the last several years, I have been fortunate to have had a steady showing of my work in New York, international, and regional galleries and to have been published in a variety of print and online magazines, including two Spotlight articles in the December 2018 and, upcoming, in the October 2020 issues of B&W Magazine. [Official Website]