After four years of preparation that included 100,000 participants in all 50 states and 30 countries, the social art project One Million Bones culminated in a three-day installation event in June, 2013 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Led by artist-activist Naomi Natale, the project combined education, hands-on art-making, and public installation to raise awareness about genocide across the world.
Participants were asked to hand-make representations of human bones, each one symbolizing lives lost in mass atrocities across the world. Natale had organized volunteers to lay down smaller collections of these bones throughout the years in various cities (including New Orleans), but the D.C. event was the biggest, and the final, installation. Natale’s aim was to evoke the image of a mass grave, challenging people to recognize the existence and severity of large-scale conflicts in places like Burma, Somalia, and South Sudan. These events are often opaque to many Westerners but, Natale’s multiyear project warns, we ignore them at their peril.
Now that the main project is over she hopes to continue raising awareness by finding a permanent home for the installation.