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Imagine a Million Bones

2012 December 16

Today’s post is the second from our guest writer, Jane McPherson, LCSW. Jane is a doctoral candidate in social work and human rights at Florida State University, and a  social services consultant with the Torture Abolition & Survivor Support Coalition in Washington, D.C.  Jane is the principal organizer of One Million Bones Florida. She can be reached at


Imagine a million human bones spread out
across Washington, DC’s National Mall

That’s right, imagine it. Mukweso Mwenene, from the Democratic Republic of Congo has no trouble visualizing stacks of bones. “But in my country,” he says, “the skeletons are all in the closet. Those people have been killed…Nobody buried them. Nobody knows they died.” On Saturday, June 8th, 2013, Mwenene and other volunteers with the One Million Bones Project will create an installation evocative of a colossal mass grave on the National Mall – our nation’s front yard. (View an extended video interview with survivor Mukweso Mwenene.)
            Mwenene is looking forward to seeing the symbolic “evidence” of what has happened in his country, and in hundreds of other places around the world, on display for visitors of our Nation’s Capital to see. He hopes that this installation in Washington, along with other major ones in Albuquerque, New Orleans, Tallahassee, and elsewhere – will create pressure on politicians to take action against torture, genocide and mass violence. “Our leaders can only react when each and every one of us forces them to,” he says. 
Bones-Kids            The Washington event in June will represent the culmination of the vision of Naomi Natale, the founding artist behind One Million Bones. “Hopefully,” Natale says, “this is something that will burn in people’s memories – something that never should have had to be made.” (View One Million Bones’ founder Naomi Natale’s address to the Oslo Forum.)
            One Million Bones is a growing, national art-activism project based in Natale’s home city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The initial installation there has sparked offshoot projects in eleven countries and 48 states, including Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, and Massachusetts, with many others coming soon. Currently, Pennsylvania is hosting a three-month event at GoggleworksCenter for the Arts in Reading, while Colorado and Florida are both planning events in conjunction with local galleries in the coming year.
Bones-Display            Each project begins with the creation of a single, simple handmade bone.  One Million Bones invites all of us to participate by putting our hands in clay and taking another imaginative leap by making a bone—and making it specific by imagining it as the bone of a mother or a child, of a father or a son – the bone of a victim of violence. 
            Local bone-making events at universities, senior centers, elementary schools, yoga studios and ice cream parlors create personal connections between U.S. citizens and suffering people far away. The large-scale installations generate awareness about genocide and other forms of mass violence, and mobilize viewers to take action against persistent violence in places like the DRC and Myanmar.  One Million Bones also collaborates with the Enough Project and United to End Genocide. Information about genocide and mass violence can be found at those sites and – unfortunately – in the daily news.
            Through a partnership with the organization Students Rebuild, One Million Bones is also raising money to assist survivors. Each bone created raises $1 for CARE International’s work with survivors. As of December 15th, One Million Bones volunteers have created over Bones-Jane450,000 bones – generating almost a half-million dollars for survivors of violence. (Visit the Students Rebuild home page for an updated bone count.)
            Join us as we look towards June, 2013. We need volunteers to get involved: to make bones, and to organize events. Students Rebuild has just launched a new campaign urging folks to make bones for peace this holiday season. Please contact them to find out how your family and your community can become engaged in this project.
            We will also need at least 4,000 volunteers to partici-pate in the One Million Bones installation at the National Mall in June. You can sign up here to participate in D.C. You too can become “one in a million.”



One comment on “Imagine a Million Bones

  1. Andrew Natale on said:

    This event could very well be the beginning of the end of apathy and disinterest in humanity.

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