Posts Tagged ‘afghanistan’


The Cincinnati Museum of Art has just received the single largest monetary gift  (11.75 million gift) in its history, adding to its collection of South Asian art, and the arts of Greater  Iran and Afghanistan – through the benevolence of Carl and Alice Bimei. The Bimeis collected  paintings including miniature paintings and other South Asian works of art.

Off to Cincinnati!



September 28, 2012 Leave a comment
Mes Aynak, ca. 25 miles southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, was  known  during the Bronze Age, was a well known trading station on the Silk Road,  and a site with hundreds of monasteries and Buddha statues already existing during the Gandharan period, — and now has gained prominence for its rich copper deposits. Ironically mining has taken place there many centuries ago but in a much simpler and  less destructive fashion.
The first link allows you to read more about Mes Aynak and to sign a petition of support  to prevent the destruction of this site.
The second link from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology explains the culturally important background of Mes Aynak.
And below follows a summary from a CNN report.
If you visited  the  recent  international travel  exhibit about Afghanistan, you will have seen several artifacts excavated at Mes Aynak and on loan from the  Kabul Museum (aka the National Museum of Afghanistan).
Thank you!

Ancient site needs saving not destroying
A Buddhist statue overlooks a Chinese government-owned mining compound in Logar province, Afghanistan. Mes Aynak, a 2,600-year-old Buddhist site, could be destroyed in December to create a massive copper mine.
A Buddhist statue overlooks a Chinese government-owned mining
compound in Logar province, Afghanistan. Mes Aynak, a 2,600-year-old
Buddhist site, could be destroyed in December to create a massive copper mine.
Mining operation threatens Buddhist icons
Editor’s note:
Brent Huffman is a documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He started making a film about the Mes Aynak site in the summer of 2011 thinking he would be documenting the site before it was demolished and recording the process of rescue archeology. Now he hopes he can use his film to raise awareness to actually save Mes Aynak.
(CNN) — Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.
Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.
Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.
Be at ease, Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn’t so lucky.
Documentary-maker Brent Huffman
Documentary-maker Brent Huffman
This site is called Mes Aynak and is nothing short of awe-inspiring: a massive walled-in Buddhist city featuring massive temples, monasteries, and thousands of Buddhist statues that managed to survive looters and the Taliban. Holding a key position on the Silk Road, Mes Aynak was also an international hub for traders and pilgrims from all over Asia.
Hundreds of fragile manuscripts detailing daily life at the site are still yet to be excavated. Beneath the Buddhist dwellings is an even older yet-unearthed Bronze age site indicated by several recent archaeological findings.
Mes Aynak is set for destruction at the end of December 2012. All of the temples, monasteries, statues as well as the Bronze age material will all be destroyed by a Chinese government-owned company called China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC). Six villages and the mountain range will also be destroyed to create a massive open-pit style copper mine.
In 2007, MCC outbid competitors with a $3 billion bid to lease the area for 30 years. MCC plans to extract over $100 billion worth of copper located directly beneath the Buddhist site. Ironically, the Buddhists were also mining for copper albeit in a more primitive fashion.
MCC says they weren’t told about the archaeology site’s existence until after the contract was signed. Following significant international pressure and perhaps sensing an impending PR nightmare, MCC in 2009 gave archaeologists three years to attempt to excavate the site.
Archaeologists say they need at least 30 years to do the job but had no choice but to accept MCCs brief timetable. Specialists on site are working with extremely limited funding and the crudest of tools.
     There is a magic to Mes Aynak — an ability to draw in people from around the world who will risk their lives to save it.
Brent Huffman
Afghan archaeologists, who do the majority of the excavation, don’t have access to computers or digital cameras and have been sleeping on the floor in a wooden shack when staying on the site overnight. Today, three teams of international archaeologists led by DAFA, a French archaeological delegation, scramble to save as many relics as they can. These experts are performing rushed rescue archeology, which focuses on removing movable objects and not on preserving structures.
Archaeologists now have less than four months to do three decades worth of excavation. They are also risking their lives daily as locals of Logar Province, angry at the loss of their villages, partner with the Taliban to regularly attack both the MCC site and the archaeology location with rockets and land mines.
In July, a Logar worker unearthed a landmine that exploded in his face. Later that month, four Afghan policemen were killed by a landmine on the road leading to the archaeology site.
I am often asked, “Why save it? It is, after all, just another remnant of the past, right?” Wrong.
Mes Aynak is the missing link that shows Afghanistan’s interconnectivity throughout Asia on the Silk Road. Afghanistan needs to see the value of learning its own cultural history as too often the country’s story is co-opted by the lens of another.
Afghans need to claim their cultural significance in the world for current and new generations. And the findings at Mes Aynak will be the key to doing that.
In addition to Mes Aynak’s historical significance, the site is breathtaking to behold in person. I can’t help but feel privileged and honored to have been able to set foot inside its ancient walls, to have been able to bear witness to massive Buddhas, many of which are still coated in gold paint overlooking their ancient city.
      These statues have miraculously survived looting, survived the intense heat and cold, and survived over three decades of continuous war.
There is a magic to Mes Aynak — an ability to draw in people from around the world who will risk their lives to save it. I fell in love with this ancient site and will do everything in my power to try to help save it.
It sickens me to know that in a short time this site will be destroyed in the same violent and disrespectful way the Buddha of Bamyan was destroyed. This desecration shows no reverence to culture or religion.
Imagine someone bulldozing your grandparents’ graves and blowing up their cemetery. How could the world look away letting such crime happen in the name of capitalism?
Unfortunately, Mes Aynak has gained some powerful enemies. MCC, The World Bank and Afghan ministries all want mining to start ASAP.
In my opinion, they want Mes Aynak to set a precedent — to be a model for resource extraction of the one trillion dollars plus of valuable minerals like oil, copper, lithium and iron buried underneath Afghanistan.
According to archaeologists that I spoke with, every mining location holds cultural heritage. On every potential mine lies an ancient site like Mes Aynak. So, even worse than the senseless destruction of Mes Aynak, is the thought that this kind of cheap destructive process will be replicated all across Afghanistan.
I often hear talk about mineral extraction being somehow good for Afghanistan, but I promise you this is not the case.
Given the country’s out of control corruption there are a privileged few who will see any payout from such endeavors. Afghan citizens have absolutely nothing to gain from this copper mine or any other international extractive industry.
I believe Chinese will bring in their own laborers to manage the mine and Afghans will be given only low level and terribly paid positions working in slave-like conditions.
And I have said nothing about the environmental devastation. Many mining experts have told me the toxic pollution from the mine will likely turn Mes Aynak into a site so toxic that in the future people will be advised against even setting foot on the ground. They tell me this pollution will be permanent, rivers will be polluted and the toxins will travel to other areas — and the locals have never been educated about these risks to the area.
So not only will Afghanistan lose an ancient site, a key to unlocking its important history, but the country will lose the land and everything living on it. And what happens when Afghanistan needs copper or oil or iron for its own development? Will they have to buy it back from China at inflated rates?
My fear is that in the future Afghanistan will consist of hundreds of these gaping toxic craters and the resources the country needs for its own development will be lost. Afghans will see no benefit. They will suffer from irreversible environmental devastation and the permanent loss of invaluable cultural heritage.
So as a final request I want you to close your eyes once again. Imagine a city-sized toxic crater in the ground where the majestic Machu Picchu once stood. That sight, unfortunately, is the future of Mes Aynak unless we do something to stop it.
Prof Brent Huffman:

Treasured Artifacts Returned to Afghanistan

BBC News has written an article explaining a recent recovery of “Looted Afghan Artefacts Returned to Kabul,” in which they explain the current situation in which over 800 artifacts have been returned to Afghanistan since their illegal departure from the country in the 90s.

During the civil war in Afghanistan (1992-1996), 843 artifacts were stolen and looted from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul,  ended up on the black market, and were then sold to private collectors around the world. One recovered artifact that should be noted, is a stone Buddha statue which is thought to be around 1,800 years old, and was discovered to be located in Japan. Other looted artifacts include intricate ivory carvings and figures of Buddha, some of which are extremely aged at this point.

As more than two-thirds of the exhibits at the National Museum of Afghanistan were destroyed throughout the duration of the civil war, Afghan archaeologists had feared that the looted artifacts would never surface or be returned. However, with the recovery of these deeply anticipated 843 artifacts, a sense of national pride has been restored.

The British Museum in London has assisted in the completed return of this collection of artifacts, as well as British border and police forces. The British Ministry of Defense even flew certain recovered artifacts back to Camp Bastion — their military base located in Afghanistan. It seems special that such a joyous occasion like this has arisen in the world, I feel relief to know that several hundred objects have been returned to their home country, and that other countries have made efforts to assist Afghanistan in the safe return of their ancient treasures. Thank you.

The photo is of the stone Buddha statue that was recovered in Japan.

Here is a website link to the online article by BBC News:




Such photos always bring back happy memories, formed during times predating the looting of the museum and before the Taliban destruction of the Bamyan Buddha statues.

Located between China and India to the east and Europe to the west, Afghanistan was at the commercial and religious crossroads of civilizations in Central Asia. And it still is.

Many of us are encouraged by the increase in education offered to and avidly taken up by boys and girls and their parents in Afghanistan – real progress made over the last ten years despite the war. If you ever want to participate in supporting a small but ongoing and very successful endeavor to educate a child, a family, a community – go to, Ayni Supporting Education in Afghanistan, formerly known as Journey with an Afghan School. I have supported them for some years and know the founder, and the current Executive Director and receive first hand reports from the schools and their principals and teachers.

Tashakor. Thank you.



February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
If you are in love with  Afghanistan’s  culture, history and people like I am or if you are merely interested in Afghanistan, then I would like to share with you news about a project in Kabul that is going on  despite politics, poverty and uncertainties.  I have always believed that by supporting education and training for  artists, architects, teachers, students,  by  providing an environment where they can create and produce their work, and then connecting them with a global community,  — the culture, the arts, crafts, pride and future of a country can be ensured and  the fight against poverty and disruptions can go forward.

Such is the case with Turquoise Mountain Arts  –  –  founded under the charities of HRH The  Prince of Wales  establishing an Institute of Traditional Afghan Arts and Architecture together with four craft schools. Please go to their website at

 It includes Jewelry, Calligraphy and Miniature Painting, Woodworking  and  Ceramic schools. Their   website introduces teachers and artists  and their work.  Commissions range from the very small to large projects (like the Embassy library in Tokyo) and Turquoise Mountain encourages you to submit your order for custom work under the BESPOKE menu button.

Be sure and check out the Partners connected with  Turquoise Mountain Arts, – each of them continuing the work with artists, artisans, and crafts people in Afghanistan.


October 26, 2011 Leave a comment

THE FORTRESS/CITADEL OVERLOOKING HERAT (IN WESTERN AFGHANISTAN) rebuilt with help from the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and German and American governments, was officially handed over to the Afghan government in October 2011. With the oldest buildings going back to perhaps Alexander the Great and 330 B.C., part of the battlements and towers still standing date back to the 14th and 15th century after having been rebuilt following the Mongol invasion and destruction. Herat was on the Silk Road and remained a center for politics and culture. In the museum also built with German and American support, books, pottery, paintings and manuscripts can be seen. But everybody worries about the Taliban attacks and disturbances in and around Herat.

I remember when I first went to Afghanistan many decades ago, I could not have done without the books and articles by Nancy Hatch Dupree who has lived (and who still divides her time between Kabul and Peshawar working and writing I recently read) , studied, written, preserved and watched over Kabul, Afghanistan and its heritage, culture and its treasures for over forty years. She was at hand at the opening of the citadel and the museum. See you in Afghanistan!


October 9, 2011 1 comment
Who cannot  get excited about the Silk Road? Who has been there? I know of a few friends and it is on my Bucket List to ride out on a camel into the Gobi desert !
Afghanistan and its neighbors embarked on the Silk Road initiative to bring  prosperity and peace by linking markets across South and Central Asia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Foreign Minister from Afghanistan Zalmai Rassoul, and Guido Westerwelle, German Foreign Minister are hosting talks in New York October 6th, 2011 to plan a  NEW SILK ROAD.
This meeting which will include participants from a number of countries will later continue in Istanbul.
A number of bi-lateral agreements already exist in the region despite some tensions…..but Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India will be among the more than twenty-two countries who are expected to be involved. 
Who is ready to go?