Hidden Treasures (New York)


Opening remarks


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 06/15/09


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us today to celebrate and share Afghanistan’s cultural heritage, here at of the magnificent Metropolitan Museum of Art. I am very grateful to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Geographic Society, especially Dr. Hiebert, to bring this exhibition to you.


Seven years ago, with the Taliban roaming our streets, none of us could have imagined that we would be able to display these artifacts, long considered to be looted or destroyed. Since they were uncovered, these artifacts have traveled the world, showcasing our rich history, art and culture. From the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum and Houston’s Museum of Fine Art, over a million American got a chance to learn more about the true Afghanistan.


However, the exhibition here in New York City has a unique symbolic significance. The same evil forces of Taliban that destroyed the Twin Towers here in New York destroyed the twin Buddha’s in Afghanistan. This exhibition is a reminder that you cannot destroy history and identity. It is also a token of our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the American people for their support and friendship to help us rebuild our country, as well as for the sacrifices of your young sons and daughters, who are fighting to defend freedom and global security and to prevent a similar attack in here, in Afghanistan and the world.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

With your assistance, today, Afghanistan is once again regaining its historic role of bridging cultures, countries and civilizations. These crown jewels show the ancient Afghanistan that exists beyond what we read in the news and see on TV, today. Afghanistan is a country of ancient 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 cultures, the roundabout of the Silk Road and the crossroad of civilizations and invasions. These Hidden Treasures are a fusion of Roman, Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian and Balkan art influences with unique Afghan and Bactrian characteristics.


This magnificent and fragile collection, including The gold vessels from Tepe Fullol, the architectural elements from the Hellenistic city of Ai Khanum; the ivory, bronzes, the glass collections from Begram; and the gold jewelry from Tella Tepa showcase three important phenomena of our ancient and recent history:


* The incredible craftsmanship of Afghan artisans;
* The tremendous local wealth that existed in Afghanistan; and
* The heroic patriotism of ordinary Afghans, who put their lives on the line to rescue our national treasures long thought to have been destroyed.


In 2003, the world was stunned to learn that the priceless artifacts had been located intact in a bank vault within the presidential palace in Kabul. A heroic group of Afghans key holders kept the location of these treasures—along with other masterpieces belonging to the National Museum, Kabul—a secret through 25 tumultuous, war-torn years. Afghanistan is home to a rich mosaic of various at art styles, each symbolizing a unique civilization. Although this pristine mosaic was shattered by war, violence and terror, both the spirit of the Afghan people and our cultural heritage survived. These priceless artifacts are a testament to the Afghan people and to the heroism of the brave Afghans who preserved and protected them for all of us.


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 over the last 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 will visit Afghanistan and view the complete collections of bronze, gold, ivory and marble that the soon-to-be restored National Museum will hold. Until that day, we are happy to bring some of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage to you as a small token of our appreciation for your support and friendship. Hopefully these Hidden Treasures will provide a new perspective on Afghanistan’s golden history, its friendly people and hopeful future.


Thank you.