On June 8, thousands of volunteers clad in white placed one million handcrafted clay and paper mache bones on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The installation of bones, completed as the focal point of the One Million Bones event weekend, represented a mass grave of persons killed by current genocide and mass atrocities around the world, including Congo, Syria, Somalia, Burma and Sudan. By incorporating volunteers into the installation of her piece, artist Naomi Natale called participants to be responsible for that which they carried – the bones of genocide victims. The social art installation was a forum to raise awareness, as well as a powerful “visible petition” calling citizens and members of congress to action, by illustrating the repercussions of inaction.
Alongside the installation, esteemed speakers such as genocide survivors John Dau, Eric Ndaheba and Eva Kor addressed the personal tragedy of genocide, the significance of the bones and the freedom of forgiveness. Women’s rights activist Neema Namadamu called the crowd to take charge of the inheritance they leave their children,
“We all want to give our children an inheritance, and we don’t want that inheritance to be bones. Don’t invest in bones, invest in life.”
Other speakers, including Tom Perriello, Dr. Mukesh Kapila, and John Prendergast highlighted the power and duty of dedicated citizens to exact real change. Through their reflections and proposals, the presenters demanded a deeper, more sincere commitment to ending the conflicts devastating the world today.
This call to action did not fall upon deaf ears. On Sunday afternoon, hundreds gathered to attend workshops, which outlined steps to take as students, activists, and global citizens to address ongoing conflicts around the world. The weekend culminated with the Act Against Atrocities Advocacy Day organized by the Enough Project and One Million Bones on June 10. In line with the message of the weekend’s messages, over 200 activists “brought a bone to congress” by lobbying more than 90 congressional offices to support House and Senate legislation addressing ongoing issues in Sudan and Congo.
Photo: One Million Bones installation on the National Mall (Enough Project)