Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen
I welcome all of you to this special event. (I am delighted at the presence of the President of the General Assembly.) It is also a pleasure to see so many colleagues and members of the Afghan community in New York.
Seven years ago in March 2001, the world learned of the destruction of the almost 2000 year old Buddha statues in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s shameful act was not only a blatant attack against Afghanistan’s rich history, but humanity as a whole. It received a wide international condemnation. Yet, the demolition of Statues is but one example of the cultural genocide aimed at the obliteration of Afghanistan’s historical memory and its cultural heritage. Afghanistan’s Kabul museum and national gallery were once home to precious sculptures, paintings, coins, gold, potteries, and other artwork depicting the rich history of Afghanistan and the region. During the armed-conflict, a great majority of these precious artifacts were looted and destroyed. Many were smuggled to foreign countries.
Nevertheless, seven years since opening a new chapter in our modern history, steady progress continues towards the restoration and revival of Afghanistan’s national heritage. In March 2002, the Government of Afghanistan partnered with the UNESCO to begin rehabilitation of Afghanistan’s National Museum in Kabul. Since then, a considerable number of historical artifacts have found their way home and been restored to the national museum.
Tonight’s event is a manifestation of our commitment to our cultural heritage. We have gathered to honor the work of one of our well-known artists, Professor Amanullah Haidarzad. During his illustrious career, Prof. Haidarzad has produced various sculptures, paintings, coins, and medals portraying Afghanistan’s rich identity, history and culture. As such, he has played an important role in promoting Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. His work has been recognized by a diverse audience of intellectuals and applauded in various forums and international gatherings.
As you will see, moments from now, his artwork not only provides an adequate illustration of Afghanistan’s cultural image, but also contains an international dimension, reflecting the beauty of three distinct traditions of art: Traditional West, Avant-Garde and Traditional Islamic. In each category, he has demonstrated a unique skill in mastering both technique and artistic sensibility.
Prof. Haidarzad has dedicated himself to rebuilding the arts and culture of Afghanistan. His service to his country dates back to 1966 when he played an instrumental role in the founding of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Kabul University. Since 2001, he has traveled to
Afghanistan on numerous occasions to propose the rebuilding of Buddha statues and conduct a survey for establishing a Cultural Center in Kabul University. In recognition of his sense of patriotism and potential, Prof. Haidarzad was appointed as Senior Adviser on Cultural Affairs by His Excellency President Karzai.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over two-decades, images of violence, suffering, agonies and destruction, aired by the international media, has shaped a depressing perception about Afghanistan. Tonight’s exhibition gives testimony to the beginning of a new outlook in our history; one characterized by symbols of hope, peace and progress.
Art and culture unify people and connect humanity, irrespective of religious, racial and cultural differences. Together, let us invest greater in art and culture as they contribute to peace and harmony world-wide.
Before declaring this exhibition open I would like to give the floor to Professor Haiderzad to share his thoughts on his work with us.