As the sun rose over the Nation’s Capitol on the morning of June 9, 2013, the National Mall appeared to a massive grave site. Over one million bones had been scattered throughout the grass in the shadow of the National Capitol. This looked like something out of a horror movie - and it was supposed to.
One Million Bones is actually a project of The Art of Revolution - a large-scale social arts practice, combining education, hands-on art making, and public installations to raise awareness of ongoing genocides and mass atrocities in places like Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma.
The massive art installation came from Albuquerque-based artist Naomi Natale, who since 2010 has been soliciting the contribution of artisan-made bones as a way of calling attention to genocide and mass killing in Sudan, Congo, Burma and Somalia. Natale was inspired by Phillip Gourevitch’s book on the Rwandan genocide and upon reading his descriptions of what had transpired there, decided to make the images real for those living in the United States.
This weekend’s event is the largest display yet, and the culmination of the project. Natale hopes to find a permanent site to house this massive and moving collection.
The bones represent honor victims and survivors. They also serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much need and long overdue action. Scenes like this are to at first shock, then educate, and bring awareness to the public.
The event featured international speakers and performers, educational workshops, a candlelight vigil, and the opportunity to Act Against Atrocities during an advocacy day on Capitol Hill led by the Enough Project.
The bones are actually not real but have been made by volunteers for this project from made of clay, plaster, wood, glass, metal, paper and other materials in the call to end genocide and mass atrocities with tens of thousands made in the Washington DC area.
In an advocacy video for the project, Desmond Tutu addressed the significance of the bones.
"The symbol of the bone attests to the impermanence of life," he said. "But I believe they embody so much more. Bones are evidence of a unique individual journey -- each moment of hope and happiness, each dream and passion, each struggle experienced in a lifetime. But also the evidence of a collective journey, the stories shared and the human experience."
Tutu also points out that the grave serves as a reminder of those whose stories have been lost in places such as Sudan, Germany and the former Yugoslavia and reminds people of the collective responsibility to be one another's keeper.
"Each individual’s humanity is inextricably linked to one another’s. We must raise each other up or else we all sink down.”
Last two images courtesy of OneMillionBones.org