Wednesday 2 March 2011

Karzai in London for opening of Afghan exhibition

President Karzai turned up at the British Museum last night for the official opening of the Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World exhibition. Accompanied by the UK's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, he seemed relaxed as he addressed the 800 guests who had been given a preview of the remarkable exhibition. He even managed to shake my hand!
Over 200 amazing objects from the National Museum of Afghanistan are showcased, together with a small number of objects from the British Museum's own collection. These objects are amongst those that survived the ravages of the Taliban's iconoclastic regime, safely locked away in a German-built vault under the President's palace in the heart of Kabul.
They include stained ivory inlays that were originally panels on imported Indian furniture, exquisite Roman bronzes, tableware from Egypt and the Middle East and parts of the golden treasure hoard found at Tillya Tepe in the north of the country.
The objects on show dates from 2000 years BCE until about 0 BCE. Ironically, few if any of them can really be identified as of Afghan origin, even thought that is the place where they were found. They were almost all brought to Afghanistan by cultures from outside - the Greeks, the Kushans, steppe nomads - all of whom form part of the extraordinary mix of people that make up the Afghan identity. Few of these objects come from the Pashtun tradition. One day, perhaps, we will see an exhibition that celebrates their contribution to Afghan history and culture.

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