Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage - Continuity In Change


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This paper, written in late Summer 2008, was informally forwarded to CMA just shortly before the Author's first visit to Afghanistan. It shades a samewhat different light on Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage context. This approach has been confirmed by direct experience in 2008, and than again in 2009 and 2010.

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Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage - Continuity In Change

  1. 1. Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage – Continuity in Change by Alessandro Califano, Senior Curator CRDAV, City of Rome (Italy) The latest attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7th brings last year’s suicide attacks to over 140, some of them brought right into the heart of what should be Afghanistan’s most normalized area. With militias and clans battling each other, diverse military contingents spread throughout the country, and a crime-ridden economy, the region’s overall situation is not likely to attract many cultural heritage lovers to museums and monuments in this Central Asian country, yet. An interview with Ahmad Wali Masoud [“Ahmad Wali Masoud believes that investment in Afghanistan may be quite profitable”, Ekspert Kazakhstan – July 2nd, 2008], organizer of a conference organized in Kyrgyzstan in early June, entitled "Afghanistan, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Security and Geopolitics", previously Ambassador of Afghanistan in London, UK, and the brother of the legendary Ahmad Shah Masoud – the Lion of Panshir, who led the Northern Alliance troops against the Taliban, and was killed by al Qaida members two days before 9/11 – suggests however a rather different approach: “Be it the northern or southern provinces, [the higher] the investments, the more stable the situation will be. Spread investments evenly, in all provinces, and it will be a structure neither Taliban nor Al-Qaeda will ever destroy. Because you will give the people strength, you will stabilize the situation and win the people's trust. Moreover, you will win the confidence that people have something to fight for. It will make your own future secure. […] The Western community […] should concentrate on the advancement of a dialogue with Moslems and with the Islamic world. Ninety- nine percent of Moslems are not extremists at all. If you want a dialogue, however, you'd better make sure that this dialogue is strategic and not tactical…” From this point of view, building upon the new role that museums, historical monuments and archaeological areas could have, even in this still problem-ridden area, means to accept the challenge, and to work for a better change. A “check-up” of museums conditions in Afghanistan, focusing on losses, balances and mid-term needs of the country’s cultural heritage institutions should be the first step in a strategy involving Canada’s museum professionals community in reorganizing and safeguarding Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. It would moreover conveniently counterbalance Canada’s direct military involvement in the region, and even maybe place it in a more favourably light. The proposing Author, Senior Curator at a Documentation Centre for Contemporary Art in Rome (Italy), a CMA member since 1990, a member of ICOM, and an expert of the Central Asian macro region, is been working since 2004 at a research project about museum trends and cultural heritage policies in post-Soviet Central Asian countries. He will be in Afghanistan between September and October 2008 to collect first hand data, to visit sites and areas of interest, and to interview cultural heritage protagonists. The resulting product should then be considered as a first “continuity-in-change” report on Afghanistan’s museums scenery. © Alessandro Califano, 2008