My friend Clara shared this article from CNN.com with me. Brent Huffman, a documentary filmmaker, wants to raise awareness about an ancient site Mes Aynak in Logar Province, Afghanistan. A Chinese company has bought the rights to the land to mine for copper and other minerals.
The site is a 2,600-year-old Buddhist site that contains sculpture, temples, scrolls and possibly other cultural and religious work. We may never know what is there since the archaeologists have only until December 2012 to complete their excavation and study of the site.
It relates to my post Sha-na-na Shangri La where I reflect on people learning from the art of their ancestors despite their cultural or religious beliefs.
It’s clear to me that in the face of money artistic and cultural heritage is not a priority. So much can be learned but instead of taking a minute to embrace this it’s easier to dismiss it especially when the ancient culture or religion is not your belief system. People are all for the cultural repatriation of art to their native lands like Greece or Italy, but guess what, how will anyone see it? If you are not fortunate enough to travel to Athens or Rome to see the ancient ruins, sculpture or ceramics with your own eyes, then what will you do? Rely on pictures from books? I bet the vases that go back to Greece get cataloged and then put in storage somewhere since they already have 10 outstanding examples of vases on view.
After going to Venice and seeing paintings that I cannot see in the U.S. and will suffer as reproductions in books, I believe more than ever in the importance of museums and educating people through art. I do not think we should start robbing tombs, temples or foreign museums just to build museum collections here in the U.S. but we should preserve these things for posterity. Wouldn’t it better for future generations and aliens to see that we were capable of beautiful things and not just destroying them?
I cannot apologize for the missionaries or bandits who took art from Africa, Greece, India, Cambodia, Mexico and countless other countries and cultures, and I won’t because we have them to thank for a lot of the amazing things we see in museums and galleries today, but we can be aware of the outright destruction of it now and change what happens in the future.