Nepal | November 27, 2020

Afghan museum restores Buddhist history, one broken piece at a time

Share Now:

KABUL: Restoring Afghanistan’s Buddhist artefacts that were destroyed by the Taliban 18 years ago is like working on a 1,500-year-old jigsaw puzzle, say conservators working on the latest restoration project.

The militant Islamic group in 2001 destroyed artefacts dating from the third century when many Afghans practised Buddhism, including two towering Buddha statues in Bamyan province and scores of smaller ones excavated from monasteries and preserved at the national museum in Kabul.

After the Taliban government fell that same year, the museum began restoring remnants of the country’s Buddhist history. The latest US-supported project aims to reassemble thousands of pieces into statues within the next three years.

“It is very important (work) because it is actually a restoration of our heritage, our identity, our past,” said Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, director of the 100-year-old National Museum of Afghanistan.

“Buddhism was practised here for more than 1,000 years. That’s a very large part of our history,” he added.

Forty years of war, from the 1980s Soviet occupation to internal fighting and the war against the Taliban, have destroyed much of Afghanistan’s art, artefacts and architecture.

Warlords stole other pieces and sold them abroad.

Conservator Sherazuddin Saifi, 62, was working in the museum under the Taliban in 2001.

“They wanted us to tell them the number of antiquities and we ignored their request, but some days later they came and started breaking the antiquities,” said Saifi, who still works at the museum.

“These antiquities are the national treasure and the history of our country and show who lived in this country,” he added.

In a classroom at the museum, Afghan conservators work alongside experts from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. US assistance is invaluable because Afghan conservators lack experience and the necessary chemicals and glues for restoration work, Rahimi said.

Sometimes they can work from archived photos that show the statues intact. In other cases, 3-D imaging and imagination are required to sort and reassemble stucco shards of Buddha faces, hands and torsos.

A spokesman for the Taliban, which was until last month in peace talks with the United States, said the group has no plans to destroy antiquities.

“All antique artefacts will be preserved in their place,” spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Reuters. “They should be preserved for the history and culture education of the upcoming generations.”

US President Donald Trump told a rally on Thursday American soldiers have been in Afghanistan long enough, but talks with the Taliban on withdrawing US troops, intended as a step toward peace, broke down in September.

The prospect of reintegrating the Taliban in a power-sharing deal troubles Rahimi, who is looking at options for moving the artefacts if they are threatened again.

“We cannot let that happen again to our heritage,” he said.

Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Act now to address shadow pandemic of VAW, says WHO

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 Urgent action is needed across the WHO South-East Asia Region to strengthen efforts to protect women and girls from violence and to support their health needs amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said the World Health Organisation Regional Office for South-East Asia today. Read More...

Be sensitive towards protecting rights of violence survivors: PM

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli stated that the government would not tolerate any sort of gender-based discrimination and violence. In a message released on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, PM Oli reaffirmed the government’s efforts to op Read More...

Foden strike sends City into Champions League knockouts

ATHENS: Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden finished off a brilliant team move as his side saw off Olympiakos Piraeus 1-0 away from home on Wednesday to book their place in the Champions League's last 16. After dominating possession with little reward, City found a breakthrough in Read More...

Ensure right to life: NHRC

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 The National Human Rights Commission has drawn the government’s attention to the need to protect people’s right to life. The human rights watchdog’s statement comes in the wake of recent protest in Bardibas of Mahottari, where police firing claimed the life of Budd Read More...

Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to arrive today

KATHMANDU: Foreign Secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla will land in Nepal today for a two-day official visit. Shringla's visit follows a series of Indian high-level visits to Nepal made in an attempt to better the once very strained relations between the two countries following the May-bord Read More...

End to gender-based violence sought

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 The Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, a formal network of forest user groups from all over the country, has called for collaboration to end gender-based violence. At a programme organised by FECOFUN here today on the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Ge Read More...

Road accidents continue to take toll on lives in Kathmandu valley

KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 25 Human casualties resulting from traffic accidents had decreased significantly in Kathmandu valley after the government imposed the lockdown in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus. However, with the government decision to lift the lockdown, road accidents have increas Read More...

Succour to abandoned kids, disabled man

BAJURA, NOVEMBER 25 Financial assistance was provided to three siblings who were left to fend for themselves after their only parent left them and a disabled man without anyone to take care of him in Badimalika Municipality, Bajura. After reading the news reports on their plight, Sai Samaj Sew Read More...