Molding a million bones for victims of genocide

Replicas of human bones line the floor of [storefront] in Pioneer Square. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)Seattle lends a hand in a macabre participatory art project to raise awareness of humanitarian crises in Congo and Somalia.

It’s First Thursday Art Walk in Pioneer Square. Stylish reception-goers clank wine glasses together and walk atop shattered mandibles, withered femurs and shrunken skulls embedded in the floor of the Olson Kundig Architects [storefront] gallery in Pioneer Square.

The bones aren’t real—they’re made of clay. But their meaning is certainly genuine.

According to the One Million Bones website, “Each bone represents a call to action, a story, a voice.”

That’s why many people at this reception—at least the ones who aren’t just hanging around for the free food—are making bones themselves.

After all, that’s what the event is all about. Because every bone brings the One Million Bones group closer to reaching its goal; to raise awareness for victims of mass atrocities and genocides in Africa by making a “visual petition,” a display of one million bones at the National Mall in Washington D.C. in June.

I catch Sabrina Urquhart, manager of the Students Rebuild program at the Bezos Family Foundation, pulling apart bricks of clay and giving some reception-goers tips on bone-crafting.

Sabrina Urquhart, manager at Students Rebuild, smiles widely at the One in a Million reception during the April 4th First Thursday Seattle Art Walk. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

Sabrina Urquhart, manager at Students Rebuild, smiles widely at the One in a Million reception during the April 4th First Thursday Seattle Art Walk. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

She tells guests the One Million initiative already has hundreds of teams in 26 different countries shaping bones just like the ones in the display case beneath her feet.

For each bone molded, she says, the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1 (up to $500,000) through C.A.R.E., an organization that provides help to young people in The Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

She says the Seattle branch’s goal is 7,000 bones.

And they’re off to a great start. The gallery is crammed with people mingling with each other as they wait to mold their own bones.

I pick my way across the room to talk to Sara Bateman, the Washington State coordinator for One Million Bones. On my way I pass the bone station and see that some people are really, really good at making life-like bones.

When I finally reach Bateman she tells me she believes the bone making project is a great way to get hands on with activism. But really, it’s all about raising awareness of genocide.

Reception-goers mold bones out of clay at the One in a Million Event. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

Reception-goers mold bones out of clay at the One in a Million Event. (Photo by Christian Zerbel)

“Unfortunately people think these are issues of the past,” Bateman says.

According to Students Rebuild, 5.4 million Congolese have died in the deadliest conflict since WWII and despite some improvements in the situation in Somali, 2.5 million Somalis are still in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Bateman encourages people to come to the gallery over the coming month and help One Million Bones reach its goal in raising awareness and funds to help people who are in need.

The Olson Kundig Architects [storefront] at 406 Occidental Ave. S. is open for participants to join in through April 28. Hours are from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday, and 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, or to schedule a group visit outside of scheduled hours, contact Students Rebuild at info@studentsrebuild.org or 206-724-5525

Student at EvCC, intern at the @SeaGlobalist, social media guy and writer at the @clipperonline. Contact at christianzerbel@gmail.com

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