Paris, France — The Musée national des arts asiatiques – Guimet, abbreviated as MNAAG, France’s national art museum devoted to Asia, is offering another look at Afghanistan through its rich history and the various civilizations that have lived there giving rise to incredible archeological sites, art work and objects. The exhibition, entitled Afghanistan, Shadows and Legends, within the context of the museum’s Afghan Season, is also a proxy celebration for the 100th anniversary in 2022 of the archeological cooperation between France and Afghanistan. A celebration that was cut short by the fall of Kabul and the rise to power of the Talibans. The exhibition, being held to mark the centenary of the presence of the French Archeological Delegation in Afghanistan (Délégation archéologique française en Afghanistan), is vast, diverse, all inclusive and revolves around a century of discoveries in Afghanistan. All of the works emanate from the collections of the Guimet as works from Afghanistan were blocked from leaving the country.
The show brings together myriad works of art, objects, documents, statuary and photographs devoted to the country, past and distant past, and offers up 3D views of major archeological sites which are now more or less totally off limits, transporting the visitor into this land of legend. The show is running in tandem with another show displaying the modern day textiles by Afghan women for the couture house of Zarif Design, created by Zolaykha Sherzad in Kabul in 2005 and whose future is uncertain. Afghanistan has a rich heritage of textiles and original clothing designs.
It was here in what is present day northern Afghanistan that the mysterious Bactria thrived, a crossroads on the Silk Road with its mythical city of Balkh, the capital and center of Bactria, and a center of Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. Although it reputedly was home to ancient temples, including a Zoroastrian fire temple, little was found here by archeologists. But the French archeological team would excavate the rich sites of Hadda, Bamiyan, Begram, Fondukistan all located in modern day Afghanistan uncovering sumptuous statues in schist, stucco and clay, wall murals, objects in ivory and glass resulting in exhibitions in Paris in 1925, 1929 and 1938. A panorama of these objects are on display today in the current exhibition.
Visitors can discover Bamiyan in a photograph taken in 1923 before the dramatic destruction of the Buddhist site in 2001. There is a 7th century earthenware statue of a Seated Buddha discovered at Fondukistan, an early medieval Buddhist monastery located some 72 miles northeast of Kabul and excavated by Jean Carel, a member of the French archeological team, in 1937. There is a stunning goblet with a hyena painted upon it dating from circa 3000 to 2500 B.C. and unearthed at Mundigak, located in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan and once home to the Helmand culture, known for their colorful pottery, in the Bronze Age. The MNAAG— France’s national art museum devoted to Asia has one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia and is located in a beautiful building in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The collections are worth a visit in and of themselves. The current exhibitions are running until February 6th.©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette. https://www.guimet.fr/