Hidden Treasures

 

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 05/20/08

 

The Honorable Minister Khurram,
Distinguished Members of the Afghan Parliament,
Your Excellencies, Friends of Afghanistan


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us to celebrate and share Afghanistan’s cultural heritage.  We are honored by the presence of many Afghan and American friends today. Six years ago, with the Taliban roaming our streets, none of us could have imagined that Afghanistan would be able to once again recover and celebrate its rich history.


Fortunately, today, with the support of the United States and 60 other countries, Afghanistan is once again regaining its historic role in bridging cultures, countries and civilizations.

 

Today, the crown jewels of “Afghanistan Hidden Treasures” show the ancient Afghanistan that exists beyond the sensational sound bytes and six-word headlines; it display a country of long history, rich heritage, breathtaking beauty  and dynamic trade and commerce.

A past that is as brilliant and beautiful as the gold on display here, covered by the ashes of war and neglect. Afghanistan is a mosaic of Western and Eastern arts, the roundabout of the Silk Road and the crossroad of civilizations and invasions. Our Hidden Treasures are a fusion of Roman, Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian and Balkan art influences with the unique Afghan and Bactrian characteristics.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Hidden Treasures speaks to Afghanistan’s ancient history as well as our present day challenges and struggles. It showcases the sacrifices of our people to protect and preserve our heritage. Originally, this exhibition was called Lost Treasures of Afghanistan. We changed it to Hidden Treasures, because to us, they were never lost. To the Soviets they were lost. To the Taliban they were lost. To those who would steal or destroy them they were lost. However, to the Afghan custodians, that risked their lives to hide these artifacts, they were never lost.

 

 I would like to recognize these extraordinary Afghan patriots that helped save our heritage. Some of them are here with us today. These men and a few other remarkable individuals demonstrated tremendous courage, dedication and heroism in preserving and protecting Afghanistan’s and humanity’s cultural heritage. I would also like to recognize, the National Gallery of Art and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and especially the team from the National Geographic Society for their dedication and their countless hours of hard work to prepare this exhibit and to lay the ground for further exhibitions in DC, San Francisco, Texas and New York. I also extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. Hiebert, Deputy Minister Sultan and Director Masoudi of the National Museum in Kabul. Without your devotion, we would not be able to share these treasures with our friends in Europe and the U.S.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Our National Museum was originally established 86 years ago.  We have begun to rebuild it to restore and recover some of the artifacts and coins looted in the past 30 years. I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to collectors, museums and governments to help us locate and return our artifacts.    

 

I hope that one day some of you visit Afghanistan and view the complete collections of bronze, gold, ivory and marble artifacts at a newly built National Museum. Until that day comes, we are pleased to bring a small part of Afghanistan to you, to offer our gratitude for the friendship and support of the United States, and to provide a new perspective on Afghanistan’s golden history, its friendly people and hopeful future.

 

Thank you.