art. 74, janvier 2010 • Simon Farid Oliai : «Afghanistan’s Forbidden History of Art» (2002)

One must say that the remarkable exhibition entitled “Afghanistan: Une Histoire Millénaire” organised at The Guimet Museum of Asiatic Arts in Paris (after having been earlier featured in Barçelona) and inaugurated by the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai and the French president Jacques Chirac on February 28th, is long overdue and yet unforgettably instructive. Indeed, it reminds the fascinated visitor that all great art and all decisive and culturally significant creativity result from the interaction of a multiplicity of historically antecedent and formative forces whose anteriority should be considered a healthy assurance of the “timeless” glory of all future creation.

As amply proven by the example of Afghan history, all art or, more precisely, all cultural identity as such is composite, complex and “multicultural” at its very root and origin. It is the endless “result” of what Nietzsche calls life-affirming “experimentation”. Yet, once again, it was precisely the disastrously neurotic and predictably violent refusal to assume and affirm such an “original complexity” (that of a nation’s historical identity in this instance) that propelled the extremist and ultimately self-destructive Taliban regime in Afghanistan to commit the millennium’s most despicable and manifestly gratuitous crime against a nation’s very sense of metaphyiscal dignity in March 2001 when, on the orders of the Taliban leader Mollah Mohamad Omar, the two ancient and legendary Buddhas of the splendid Bamiyan Valley in central Afghanistan, the world’s tallest statues, were literally blown up. Moreover, whatever had survived of the already looted and damaged collections of the Kabul Museum were no less literally consigned to the dustbin of a depressing history of more than two decades of generalised barbarity (in every sense of the term) whilst UNESCO’s own special envoy to Afghanistan and former French Ambassador to Pakistan, Pierre Lafrance, was present in the country.


Article publié en 2002 dans New York Arts Magazine.

© 2010,


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