social change | May 26, 2013

Art Meets Activism: Naomi Natale Brings One Million Bones To Washington

Four years ago, social change speaker Naomi Natale had a provocative idea: commission people from across the world to create artistic representations of human bones. In a new profile piece on the TED Blog, Natale admits that her plan to represent the massive loss of human life taking place in the conflict-torn regions of The Sudan, The Congo, and Burma (Myanmar) was "pretty out there." However, she believed that her social arts practice, One Million Bones, was crucially important. And, thanks to the support of the TED community and participants the world over, she is now bringing the project to Washington. Between June 8-10, 2013, one million hand-crafted bones will be laid at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. "The installation will exist," Natale says in the TED post, "as a collaborative site of conscience to honor victims and survivors, and will also serve as a visual petition against ongoing conflicts and a resounding call for much need and long overdue action."

As Natale explains, the project lies at the intersection of art and activism. The TED Fellow believes that art can act as a powerful tool to emotionally connect people to issues happening thousands of miles away. Why did she choose bones as her medium? "The bone was chosen as a symbol to attest to the gravity of these issues," Natale says. "But more significantly, it was chosen as a symbol and as a reminder that we belong to each other and that we’re responsible to one another." Her project both draws attention to these incidents of intense violence, and connects participants to the conflict. And, perhaps just as importantly, connects them to each other.

In her moving keynotes, Natale explains creating something tangible is a vital component to inspiring social change. She provides audiences with both the tools and the inspiration to participate in social justice. Even after the Washington event concludes, Natale says she plans to continue to complete similar projects (she co-founded the Art of Revolution organization to do just that). While these intense topics can be difficult to discuss—and seem even more difficult to change—Natale's talks provide us with the hope that changing a little bit at a time is the key to one day changing the world.

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