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Earlier this year, when we attended the Oslo Freedom Forum, we had a chance to listen to Naomi Natale, the founder of the One Million Bones project, an art installation project to remember the victims of genocide. So when we were approached this semester to help make the bones for the next installation, we were enthralled. This Saturday on November 3rd, the Tufts chapter of Amnesty International, Love 146 and the Oslo Scholars Program are organizing the vigil at Tufts. For more information on the project, you can visit their website.
The following article is written by Yiran Du and Charmaine Poh of Love 146, William Luk and Christina Luo of Amnesty International and Vasundhara Jolly of the Oslo Scholars Program.
How do you picture genocide? Is it the black and white photo of men sitting in bunks at Buchenwald, or is it the portrait of a young Sudanese boy orphaned by the war in Darfur? Can you encapsulate the deaths and suffering of millions of victims in one frame? How about ten?
Genocide is not easily understandable given its scope and breadth, especially not to the average U.S. college student. Defined in international law as “an act committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” genocide has become a grave reality in numerous regions around the world, disrupting the lives of millions of individuals, and their families and communities. Still, though, the stories of those affected by genocide have too often been neglected, belittling its reality and diminishing any hope for change.
This Saturday, Tufts Amnesty International, Love 146, and the Oslo Scholars Program are bringing One Million Bones to Tufts in an effort to conceptualize just how devastating genocide can be. The One Million Bones Project is a large-scale social arts practice in which schools and individuals across the country use education and hands-on art-making to raise awareness of the many genocides and atrocities in the past and present. This project strives to collect one million artwork bones and display them in a collaborative installation on the National Mall in Washington D.C. next June. The sight of a million white bones across one of the most iconic spaces in America is bound to be inspirational and tear-jerking. Each bone will stand as a testament to the human cost of genocide; each bone will, in essence, ossify the remembrance of lives lost. The event on Saturday marks the beginning of a month-long bone-making marathon on campus.
What makes the One Million Bones Project stand out from other awareness-raising campaigns is its foundation in art. Students can use newspaper, clay and other materials to make bones, symbolically taking part in the nation-wide vigil.
Art can be used as a powerful tool to compel people who would otherwise not be interested in the issues of genocide to take part in the project. It serves as a means of accessibility, allowing viewers from all walks of life to participate without feeling intimidated or alienated. The act of physically creating as well as personally witnessing an art installation like this initiates the viewer into the issue, and can make a powerful impact on them.
In our media-saturated world, where disengagement can be as simple as clicking to close a Youtube window or flipping the page of a newspaper, an art installation like the One Million Bones Project can serve as a reminder of the everyday reality of genocide.
In addition to educating participants about the horrors of genocide, the Project has partnered with the organization Students Rebuild, a collaboration that challenges young people to think and act critically about global issues, such that each bone made will generate a $1 donation, up to $500,000, from the Bezos Family Foundation to CARE for their work on the ground in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One million bones means one million efforts to build this powerful image and raise awareness about the atrocities of genocide. Using art to educate and touch the hearts of others can help us start the journey towards unearthing, understanding, and ultimately overcoming the horrific pain caused by mass atrocities around the world.