Kabul’s an­cient Bud­dha statue re­stored

New Straits Times - - World -

KABUL: Hav­ing with­stood time, the el­e­ments, loot­ers and war, a spec­tac­u­lar Bud­dha re­stored and re­moved from one of Afghanistan’s most dan­ger­ous re­gions is to make its pub­lic de­but in the na­tional mu­seum.

The statue, which de­picted the sage in a pur­ple shroud of­fer­ing his hands to the heav­ens, had been hid­den be­neath lay­ers of soil and silt since some time be­tween the third and fifth cen­turies, said the arche­ol­o­gists who dis­cov­ered it.

The well-pre­served piece, with its colours still vi­brant, was found in 2012 at the Mes Ay­nak site, near here, in the now Tal­iban­in­fested Logar prov­ince.

“The statue was al­most whole when it was dis­cov­ered, with its head present, which is rare,” said Er­mano Car­bonara, an Ital­ian restora­tion ex­pert.

“It was placed in the cen­tre of a niche, which it­self had been dec­o­rated with painted flow­ers, in the heart of a great cen­tre of (an area used for) prayer. It was bet­ter to re­move it to pro­tect it.”

The clay used in the sculp­ture was taken from the Mes Ay­nak river and is sen­si­tive to mois­ture.

“A night of rain could de­stroy it,” said Car­bonara, adding that the de­tails of the face, the black curls of the Bud­dha’s bun, its pink cheeks and deep blue eyes pointed to a “truly so­phis­ti­cated tech­nique” of craft­man­ship.

A lust for loot­ing in a coun­try wracked by an­ar­chy for the past four decades left Car­bonara with lit­tle choice: the Bud­dha’s head, its most val­ued part on the black mar­ket, had al­ready rolled to the ground.

“We find plenty of head­less stat­ues. If we’d left it be, its head wouldn’t have lasted a long time,” said Julio Ben­dezu, di­rec­tor of the French govern­ment ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mis­sion in Afghanistan (DAFA).

Once inthe cap­i­tal,, a team of Ital­ian, French and lo­cal work­ers reat­tached the head and placed the Bud­dha back in the re­cess.

The restora­tion al­lowed ex­perts to study the statue’s in­ner struc­ture of straw and wood, re­veal­ing a Greek in­flu­ence brought by Alexan­der the Great, when his armies swept through the re­gion around 330BC.

The Bud­dha left DAFA’s work­shops ear­lier this week un­der mil­i­tary es­cort and was brought to the Na­tional Mu­seum of Afghanistan in prepa­ra­tion for its pub­lic un­veil­ing. AFP

AFP PIC

Ital­ian restora­tion ex­pert Er­mano Car­bonara with the re­stored statue of Bud­dha at the French Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Del­e­ga­tion to Afghanistan of­fice in Kabul.

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