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June 9, 2011
Tags: Afghanistan, Ghazni province, Nadia Tarzi, APAA
By Claudia Brose
In honor of the Afghan Delegation from Afghanistan’s Ghazni province visit to San Francisco, The Asia Foundation held a Luncheon and Panel Discussion on June 8th that aimed to offer the delegation insights into the efforts of Bay Area based non-profit organizations addressing issues in Afghanistan. APAA’s Executive Director Nadia Tarzi was one of four panelists presenting their work to improve Afghanistan’s educational, cultural and social environment. The Delegation of eleven included, among others, the governor and Mayor of Ghazni Province, members of Afghanistan’s Parliament and representatives of the Ministry of Information and Culture.
In 2007 Ghazni (with a population of 1.3 million) was acknowledged as the “Capital of Islamic Culture” for 2013. It is situated in eastern Afghanistan, along the strategic route that links Kabul and Khandar – a key province in Afghanistan’s past, present and future. As Ghazni Province plays today an important role in the economic, agricultural, and political realms of contemporary Afghanistan, efforts are in place on an international level to raise awareness of and improve relationships with this region.
APAA’s presentation demonstrated a different angle on “aid” work in Afghanistan. Helping to preserve the identity of an embattled nation through cultural preservation and archeological and historical education is perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when pondering how best to support a society which is attempting to rebuild itself. Yet, it is a building stone in international development efforts, as dignity, pride and an awareness of one’s own past are important aspects of a life worth living. Together with Afghan Friends Network, Afghans4Tomorrow and Roots of Peace, organizations who work to improve the lives of women and children, empower educators, develop agricultural and health programs and de-mine the country, APAA plays an important role in reviving a culture and society that finds itself in a constant state of conflict.
One couldn’t help thinking that there was a room filled with wonderful people, Afghans and non-Afghans, dedicated and passionate, skilled and driven to help people who don’t have the means to help themselves. But then, there are those, who prefer the tools of corruption, greed and power – and they make it so difficult for the rest of us.
The U.N. culture agency and the Afghan government are against the reconstruction of one of two giant 1,500-year-old Buddha statues dynamited by the Taliban in central Afghanistan 10 years ago at this time, the agency’s assistant chief said.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin said the agency has asked for a feasibility study for reconstructing the smaller Buddha, which several German scientists have been promoting and will carry out.
But Bandarin told a briefing Thursday that the study “doesn’t change our position on the reconstruction, which we think is not feasible” and would unnecessarily divert resources from other priorities at the UNESCO world heritage site in the Bamiyan Valley.
The two statues, standing 54 metres (60 yards) and 38 metres (40 yards) tall, were chiseled about 400 metres (435 yards) apart into a cliff face teeming with cave shrines and paintings about 1,500 years ago when Bamiyan was a major Buddhist centre.
The Taliban dynamited the giant Buddhas in March 2001, deeming them idolatrous and anti-Muslim, prompting a worldwide outcry.
Since the fall of the Taliban regime in November 2001, Bandarin said the niches where the Buddhas stood have been stabilized and 20-30 per cent of the giant Buddha and 40-50 per cent of the smaller Buddha have been recovered.
“But this material doesn’t have any shape,” he said. “It’s just pieces of rock … because the statue was actually carved, and then it was plastered. The plaster is dust, but the plaster was giving the shape.”
At a meeting last week of the International Committee for Bamiyan at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters, Bandarin said there was “complete agreement” among the experts that it isn’t possible to reconstruct the great Buddha but there was disagreement on the smaller Buddha.
Even though there are more pieces of the smaller Budhha, he said, “there are significant doubts that a reconstruction is possible because reconstruction will require a lot of integrations what at the end will result in a fake.”
Afghanistan’s Culture Minister Makhdoom Raheem attended the meeting, Bandarin said, and was “quite in agreement with us because they see the need to focus on things that are essential.”
Bandarin said the vast Bamiyan site, which stretches for up to 15 kilometres (9 miles), is famous for the Buddhas, but it was for centuries the most important Buddhist centre on the entire Silk Road between China and the west and therefore it became an important monestary.
“There are over 1,500 monastic caves in Bamiyan, which in effect constitute the value of the site,” he said. “Part of it is still unexplored. Part of it still needs to be preserved.”
Written by Claudia Brose
When you have a chance to watch Nadia Tarzi giving lectures, workshops or museum tours you will quickly notice the passion in her eyes and gestures for the cultural history of Afghanistan. Stories of her father’s excavations in Bamiyan and elsewhere breathe life into the images presented in slideshows or objects in exhibition tours she gives. You start feeling immersed into the cultural setting Nadia plays out for you.
How did Nadia’s life become so dominated by the cultural history of this country?
Like Afghanistan, Nadia is a melting pot of a diverse set of cultures. Her father, Professor Zemaryalai Tarzi, is a well-known Afghan archaeologist; her mother is from Sweden. Raised in France, she presently makes her home in California and invests all her time and effort into the preservation of Afghanistan’s archaeological heritage.
Devoted to his country’s history, Professor Tarzi taught his daughter what he taught his people in a country he had to flee when the Soviets marched in: An appreciation for a region’s thousands of years of history, and the multi-layered, interwoven cultural and artistic richness of an area which was once part of the storied Silk Road.
In the mid ’90’s, while spending a summer with her father in France, Nadia witnessed his profound sadness when he found out about the destruction of a niche representing an aquatic scene of Buddha and other statues surrounding it. The niche was part of the buddhist monastic ensemble of Hadda near Jellallabad. She understood her father’s feelings when looking up archival images of the intact site, which had been turned into a pile of rubble, something the photos illustrated quite brutally.
For Nadia that afternoon in France marked a point of no return. She decided to do whatever she could to advocate for the preservation of a culture and its archaeological heritage of a country that, sadly, is better known for its warlords, political instability and seemingly never-ending conflicts. Nadia wants to open her audience’s mind to the fact that more than 60.000 Afghan cultural treasures have been destroyed and about 10.000 more objects are unaccounted for. According to Nadia Tarzi, “What Afghanistan has produced is not just the heritage of this country, but it is in fact the shared cultural heritage of the world”.
In 2001 Nadia Tarzi founded the Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology for the purpose of creating widespread awareness and appreciation of the country’s archaeological treasures and to help the people of Afghanistan to reconnect with their own cultural roots. Dividing her time between raising two young daughters and growing an infant non-profit, she gradually established APAA as a leading interlocutor for a country whose cultural history is too often overlooked.
Museum’s expert and ‘orientalist’ Alessandro Califano travels Afghanistan for his museum mission.
by Claudia Brose
Alessandro Califano, a devoted and passionate Italian senior curator at Rome’s MACRO museum of contemporary art (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma), tries to teach Afghans how to set up and maintain museums in their country. Califano ventures into the provinces and gives workshops on why and how the people and the leaders of the various regions might want to be conscious about and believe in their own culture. By directly talking to and teaching the people in the provinces he believes that Afghans can contribute to the understanding and preservation of their own cultural and artistic heritage. Building museums or turning bashed-up historic sites into an open-air museum is his dream for Afghanistan.
by Claudia Brose
The exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum of Kabul is traveling the world and will be on display at the British Museum in March 2011. Titled Afghanistan – Crossroads of the Ancient World, the British Museum will show 200 treasures from the Kabul museum that survived the years of civil war and Taliban rule together with selected items from its own collection.
Nearly lost during years of conflict, this collection of some of the most remarkable archaeological finds in all of Central Asia were found between 1937 and 1978 and were exhibited in the National Museum in Kabul before it started its tour around the globe.
In 1988 the government and National Museum officials, worried about their historical works of art getting destroyed or looted, made a plan to transfer many of the artifacts to secret hiding places. In 2003 it was revealed that the vault in which the objects were hidden was intact and the artifacts were recovered from their safe and secret spot.
The exhibition offers a look into Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage with pieces that are not only artistically magnificent but also demonstrate a diverse and thriving ancient culture in Central Asia.
The exhibition is traveling the world and has already been on display at these museums:
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. – May-September 2008
Asian Art Museum San Francisco, California – October 2008-January 2009
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas – February-May 2009
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – June-September 2009
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Canada – October 2009-March 2010
Kunst und Ausstellungshalle Bonn, Germany – June 2010-January 2011
British Museum, London, Great Britain – March 2011
courtesy of the Washington Post
Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, has spent the past year working on a new social network. This time, for good deeds.
With Jumo, set to launch on Nov. 30, Hughes hopes users will bring the same enthusiasm they do to Facebook status updates and fan pages to issues such as women’s rights in South Asia, child trafficking in Eastern Europe, and the fight against Aids.
And instead of working out of the Harvard University dorm room he shared with Facebook partner Mark Zuckerberg, Hughes has been working out of offices of in New York. Jumo, means “together in concert” in the West African language Yoruba. It “conjures up the idea of a lot of people working on different causes simultaneously to affect social change,” Hughes said.
The nonprofit is launching its social network as households are cutting expenses. But 60,000 people have signed up so far, without knowing much about it the project. Hughes thinks people would get more engaged if they knew about what their favorite charities and causes were up to and met like-minded people on the Web.
Hughes, who ran the social media campaign for President Obama’s election run, stopped by The Washington Post last week to talk about Jumo.
The APAA is proud to be one of the early adopters of Jumo. Please follow our cause by clicking on this link.
Working to improve the lives of the people of Afghanistan – The Rebuilding Afghanistan Summit in San Francisco and Los Angeles, November 2010
Written by Claudia Brose.
It is a challenge to give Afghanistan a different face than what we see every day in the news. The ‘Afghanistan Hidden Treasures’ exhibition (still touring the world), different events, Non-Profit activities and a movie about Afghanistan (The Black Tulip), entirely filmed in Afghanistan and soon to be released, are examples of many efforts to keep a ‘positive Afghan fever’ in the air and a steady support on the ground.
The recent 7th ‘Rebuilding Afghanistan Summit 2010, which aimed to raise public awareness and garner support for Afghanistan, was a very encouraging event. It brought together a number of non-profit organizations working in Afghanistan, Afghans of older and younger generations, and an eager audience ready to learn about and support the efforts to help Afghanistan’s people. For the first time this Summit took place in Los Angeles, after many successful years in San Francisco. The goal is to have this event growing and being hosted in many more cities.
Will the exploitation of the copper mine Mes Aynak boost Afghanistan’s economy or destroy an ancient religious site along the Silk Road? Can a touching movie on Afghanistan (The Black Tulip, Afghanistan’s official entry to the 2011 Academy Awards) help to open a new window on this broken country? Why do Afghans today have to go back in history in order to catch up with the future? These and many more questions were discussed during presentations, networking time and workshop sessions. The question How and why should we preserve Afghan archaeology? discussed at the APAA workshop, attracted older as well as new generations of Afghans born in the US. The tears of an older lady and the well-posed questions by some younger attendees substantiated the significance that heritage has to the lives of Afghans today.
The Summit revealed two important aspects. One is the different perspective on how and when “change” for the life of Afghanistan’s people is happening. While some argue that change still hasn’t happened, others see it already happening. The other aspect is the strong desire to convey to the world that Afghanistan has a different face than just that of cruel war, desperate people and a destroyed country; the country deserves to be recognized as having a long-standing history and beautiful culture.
To sum up all the efforts, Tamim Ansary, the Afghan-American author of West of Kabul, East of New York and public speaker said at the San Francisco Summit: “The rebuilding activities done now in Afghanistan are like planting seeds whose results we won’t see for decades. And be prepared that the only reward you will get out of it is that you contributed to Afghanistan becoming ‘normal’ again.” In the broad scheme of things – that’s worth the effort.
For more information about the Summit, please visit http://www.afghansummit.org
Ladies and Gentlemen:
First of all, I wish to extend my warm greetings to Professor Zemaryalai Tarzi and the distinguished members of the Honorary Host Committee—whom I deeply regret being unable to join today, as I have been away from the United States on an extended visit overseas.
But please allow me to pay tribute to the continuing lifetime achievements of Professor Tarzi in service to Afghanistan. For the past fifty years, the Afghan history has witnessed the tireless efforts of Professor Tarzi to help conserve and preserve our heritage, while making scientific contributions of immense importance to the world heritage and history.
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan recognizes with pride and deep gratitude the perseverance with which Professor Tarzi has pursued his archaeological excavations in Afghanistan for several decades now. While past communist and extremist regimes in Afghanistan actively undermined, barred or destroyed work on preservation of the Afghan heritage, Professor Tarzi courageously spoke out against such acts and advocated for global attention to protecting the heritage we proudly share with the rest of the world.
Thanks to Professor Tarzi’s hard efforts since 2002, the Afghan people are optimistic about the restoration of the great statutes of Buddha, which the Taliban brutally destroyed in 2001. We are thankful to the Professor for helping raise resources and attention to train a new generation of Afghans to build upon the invaluable archaeological findings of DAFA. We are equally grateful to the Government of France and UNESCO for continuing to support Professor Tarzi in helping discover and protect the archaeological heritage of Afghanistan.
I also wish to express my gratitude to Ms. Nadia Tarzi for her leadership in the Association for the Protection of Afghan Archeology, as well as to the Board of Directors of the Association, whom I am delighted to join in celebrating Professor Tarzi’s fifty years of archaeological services to Afghanistan and the world at large.
Once again, I wish Professor Tarzi the best and wholeheartedly congratulate him on his continued accomplishments.