The Great Buddhas of Bamiyan

  • Published: Tuesday, 26 September 2023 15:37
  • Written by Dominique Rochard translated by T. Borfiga and J. Fahy
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For the 20th anniversary of the tragedy that destroyed the great Buddhas of Bamiyan, explore the exhibition Pictures and people, Bamiyan 20 years later (Des images et des hommes, Bâmiyân 20 ans après) at the National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet (Musée National des Arts Asiatiques - Guimet) taking place from February 4 - June 21, 2021. Read the report from our representative Dominique Rochard’s visit..

Visiting the exhibition
Pictures and people, Bamiyan 20 years later

Part of the Panoramic photo of the Bamiyan Cliff

In March 2001 the Taliban rigged two monumental 124 and 180 foot Buddhas, carved into the Bamiyan Cliff in Afghanistan to explode. The explosion preceded the destruction of the World Trade Center towers only six months later.

The Guimet Museum is commemorating the 20th anniversary of this event with the exhibition “Pictures and people, Bamiyan 20 years later” which tells the story of the site and its cultural significance from the 6th to the 13th century. For the first time, original archaeological remains of exceptional value are being presented to the public.

Rich iconographic resources highlight the major impact that France had in the discovery of the site which suffered damage through centuries, both from natural and human sources such as erosion, raiding, and pillaging.

Pascal ConvertPascal Convert, born in 1957, is a visual artist (sculpture, installation and video) and documentary filmmaker. In 1989, he was an artist-in-resident at the Villa Médici. Remembrance and forgetting are core subjects of his work.

In the 1930’s, the museum received a share of artifacts coming from the excavation site of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan, and the exhibition was based on these. Visitors will uncover unique archaeological finds from this Afghan cliff, from the Gandhara to the islamic periods. Two titanic Buddha hands with preserved gold leaf remains can also be admired.

Joseph Hackins, Ria Hackin and Jean Carl The great Buddha of Bamiyan Bodhisattvas of cave K

This exhibition pays homage to Joseph and Ria Hackin who, accompanied by Jean Carl, conducted the survey of the site in 1923. The three archaeologists reported polychromatic paint adorning the hundreds of sanctuary caves carved out of the cliff.

Exhibition posterEchoing these elements, the exhibition features an enormous photographic reproduction of the site, 5 and a half feet tall and 50 feet long, split in 15 panels set up on three sides, created by visual artist and photographer Pascal Convert. The panorama shows the Bamiyan Cliff, almost a mile long and 360 feet tall, with hyper realistic and extraordinary precision, its caves and, of course, the two empty alcoves of the Buddhas.

Pascal Convert carried out this work from memory at the request of the French Embassy. He created this panorama thanks to his collaboration with the company Iconem, specialized in documenting and preserving sites through digitization, using sophisticated high-tech shooting equipment taking no fewer than 4,000 images. He then used a printing method created in the 1870s: he used platinum-palladium print on cotton paper to reveal countless details by fusing the image with the support.

The exhibition also includes a projection of the movie “Children of Bamiyan” (“Les enfants de Bâmiyân”) showing Shia Hazaras children playing on the site and living with their family in the valley.

National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet
Des images et des hommes, Bâmiyân 20 ans après
Exhibition commissioner-general, Sophie Makariou, president of the Guimet Museum, and Pierre Cambon, chief curator of the Guimet Museum’s the Korea, Pakistan and Afghanistan collection.
Price: €11.50 and €8.50 (reduced) to access the exhibition and the permanent collections
6 place d’Iéna - Paris 16 - www.guimet.fr
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