Albuquerque Preview Installation
On August 27, 2011, One Million Bones produced its first preview installation of 50,000 bones off of Route 66 in Albuquerque, NM.
The day began the way most Saturday mornings do in downtown Albuquerque: quiet and calm. While it ended up being a typical hot, crystalline blue summer day, the morning air was lovely and cool. At 8 a.m. or so, volunteers in white started moving into the stillness and workers in trucks began barricading the street and setting up the canopy, everyone going about the work of getting ready to lay 50,000 bones in the street at Central Avenue and Fourth Street.
By 10 a.m., we began as a lone volunteer in a white dress walked up the empty street with two white bones in her hands. She laid them down, bowed her head, and moved away, silently. We started slowly, a few volunteers moving up the street with bones, laying them down and walking back. Eventually, a quiet line of volunteers formed, everyone dressed in white, everyone still, everyone carrying bones. For the next two hours, over 200 volunteers laid over 50,000 bones in the street, one at a time, until almost the entire block was covered.
When the laying of the bones was finished, everyone gathered under the shade of the trees outside Amy Biehl High School for short talks by Rep. Martin Heinrich, survivors Eric Ndaheba, Kigabo Mbazumutima and Yves Muya, and anti-genocide advocates Carl Wilkens and JD Stier, heartfelt words from our MC, Hakim Bellamy, and a performance by Albuquerque’s own Matunda Ya Yesu/South African Orion Duet. Every one of them spoke to our hearts, and a quote from Carl Wilkens' remarks following the bone-laying especially captures the heart of One Million Bones, “When we make something with our hands, it changes the way we feel, which changes the way we think, which changes the way we act.”
After some reflection and refreshments, we headed back out into the sun to start the reclaiming of the bones, and many, many of the volunteers, who had spent all morning working, spent the afternoon working as well. The bones were reclaimed and packed, ready for their next destination in Washington, D.C.
By 5pm, all the tables and equipment, volunteers and boxes, bones and water jugs were gone, leaving the street as quiet, but never as empty again. It's difficult to walk past that intersection without seeing the expanse of white bones lying there in the sun, an accounting of crises around the world, and a tangible demand for actions to end them.