Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Archives for 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Receives Digitized Cultural Treasures in State Department Ceremony

Library of Congress, World Digital Library, Carnegie Corporation of New York Make Possible “Virtual Repatriation”

In a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – joined by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian — announced the gift of a collection of digitized treasures from the holdings of the Library of Congress relating to the culture and history of Afghanistan to libraries and universities in Afghanistan. The gift was made possible by a $2 million grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in support of the World Digital Library, a cooperative international project led by the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress will add Afghan treasures to the WDL as well as provide copies of these treasures toAfghan institutions. These include the National Library of Afghanistan, the American University of Afghanistan, Badakhsan University, Balkh University, Bamiyan University, Herat University, Kabul University, Kandahar University, and Nangarhar University.

The collection presented includes manuscripts, rare books, maps, and photographs. It is the first part of what will be many thousands of items from and about Afghanistan and neighboring countries with which it has interacted over the centuries.

The project is an example of the “virtual repatriation” that is made possible by digital technologies and that is one of the key objectives of the WDL. “Making cultural treasures of global value available to all the people of the world is one of the greatest gifts the digital age has given us,” Billington said. “The World Digital Library has made it possible for people of all cultures to look at the gems of each other’s learning and art in any of seven languages, and this vehicle of understanding is available 24 hours a day.”

“As Secretary Clinton prepares to leave her post at the helm of the State Department, it is fitting that one of her last official acts is this important gesture of our country’s goodwill and friendship toward the Afghan people,” Gregorian said. “These digitized manuscripts serve as the living expression not only of Afghanistan’s history but also the heritage of its people. With this treasure-trove of knowledge, Afghans will be able to travel through the record of their civilization, its triumphs and failures, and experience its legacy of intellectual, scientific and artistic achievements.”

“We hope this compendium of knowledge will serve as a guide to the Afghan people as they continue their efforts to reconstruct their country and secure its future. I would like to salute the legacy of Hillary Clinton, our great Secretary of State; James Billington, our devoted Librarian of Congress, and Zahir Tanin, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations, for his assistance in our effort.”

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its website at

The World Digital Library is a website, accessible from anywhere in the world, which presents in digital form documents of cultural significance, free of charge, about all countries and cultures. The concept was first proposed by the Librarian of Congress and the site was launched in 2009. WDL partners currently include more than 160 libraries, museums and archives from 77 countries, makes available online the world’s historic treasures. The WDL now features items in 91 languages and about all 194 United Nations member states. Resources available on the site – which presents its information in a user’s choice of seven languages – include manuscripts, maps, rare books, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs.

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.

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PR 13-009
ISSN 0731-3527

Opening Ceremony of Exhibit titled, “Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan” at the United Nations

January 7th, 2013 at the Delegates Entrance

On Monday evening, the opening of a fascinating art exhibit titled, “Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan”, was unveiled at the United Nations headquarters.  The exhibit chronicles the journey of two French photographers, Fabrice Nadjari & Cedric Houin, as they traveled through the Wakhan corridor in Northeast Afghanistan.  The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the UN in collaboration with the French consulate and other agencies.

During their journey through the Wakhan corridor, Fabrice and Cedric traveled 180 miles, beginning in the Hindu Kush Mountains to the Western Himalayas and the border of China.  While on their trek, they documented two tribes, the Wakhis and the Kyrgyz tribes through a pictorial documentary.

At the opening ceremony, H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN addressed the large crowd of attendees.  Ambassador Tanin talked about the wonderful images by saying that, “here you can see the landscape that represents the natural features of the broader central Asian region.  The people of Wakhan share lineage with people from the greater area.”

Ambassador Tanin then touched on the Wakhan and greater Afghan geographical regional importance when he stated that, “Afghanistan is viewed as a crossroads, a meeting point of different regions, a distinguished place in the Heart of Asia….Due to its unique location,” he said, “Wakhan exemplifies in its own way a crossroads, and today it can bring regions together, rather than separating them.”

The exhibit brought together citizens from varied backgrounds including United Nations Ambassadors, staff members, press, art enthusiasts, the local Afghan community, and all interested and enthusiastic people from the community.

Other co-sponsors of the event were the French Consulate, BBC, CNN, National Geographic, The New York Times, ABC, Nikon, PDN, Herald Sun, Mail Online, Artnet, Impossible, and Duggal Visual Solution.  The exhibit will be on display at the delegate’s entrance from January 7th – 18th.

Opening Ceremony of Exhibit titled, “Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan” at the United Nations

Talking Points of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Afghanistan to the UN  at the

Opening Ceremony of Exhibit titled, “Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan” at the United Nations

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Welcome, all of you, and thank you for attending this special event.  It is a pleasure to join you here this evening to view for the first time at the United Nations this impressive collection of photos. To all the sponsors that helped make this event possible, I extend my appreciation for your support.
  • I am happy to acknowledge the artists, Fabrice Nadjari and Cedric Houin who photographed their inspirational journey through the Wakhan corridor. Please join me in giving them a round of applause for their impressive work.
  • Fabrice and Cedric went on quite an adventure through parts of Afghanistan that the outside world rarely sees due to its remoteness and geographical isolation.  Through this adventure, they put together these fascinating pictorial images they have brought world-wide attention to one of the most exquisite areas of the country and region.
  • The Wakhan corridor, in the extreme Northeast of Afghanistan, linking Afghanistan and China is where one can see the ultimate beauty of the highest mountains in the world; it is where the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun and Hindu Kush ranges meet. The Wakhan corridor is 220km long, and between 16 and 64km wide, inhabited by some 12,000 people. Here you can see the landscape that represents the natural features of the broader central Asian region. The people of Wakhan share lineage with people from the greater area of central Asia. We see today that this exhibit reflects not only the tangible image of an impressive landscape, but the astonishing resilience of a people that live, where every moment is a struggle against their harsh natural setting.
  • In his masterpiece “The Monuments of Afghanistan,” Warwick Ball says, “The land itself is the natural starting point of any examination of Afghanistan. To the outsider, it is what one first encounters: its Great Plains, its fertile valleys, its mountains are seen as a source of empire by the conqueror, a source of wealth by the merchant, a source of inspiration by the pilgrim. For the people themselves, it is the landscape that has moulded them more than any other single factor: it has inspired their genius, channelled their ideas into certain patterns, and provided a spectacular setting for towns, villages and monuments that are the manifestation of that genius… but it is not the mountains, plains, and deserts alone that give the land its special quality. For the natural landscape are still just a backdrop to the human landscape set in them… the towns, villages, even the fields which adorn the landscapes are as impressive- and massive – as any great monument or work of art.”[1]
  • What Warwick Ball is saying about the landscape and diversity is just what we are seeing in today’s exhibition about Wakhan. When you look around at the faces of people in these images, you can see the simple beauty of their preservation of a traditional way of life.
  • Afghanistan is viewed as a crossroads, a meeting point of different regions, a distinguished place in the Heart of Asia.  In historical terms Afghanistan’s land which “has hosted some of the greatest civilizations… ranged from forming the peripheries of empires centered elsewhere to in turn being the hub of great empires that encompassed lands from Tabriz in the west, the Aral Sea in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south and Benares in the east…no history of China, Persia, India or Russia can be understood without continuing reference to the land locked area at whose centre lie the majestic deserts and sweeping mountain ranges of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always seemed to be the enigmatic key to the histories and destinies of others.”[2] Due to its unique location, Wakhan exemplifies in its own way a crossroads, and today it can bring regions together, rather than separating them.
  • It is my hope that all diplomats and UN staff, particularly those involved in Afghanistan see these photos.  After long years of war in Afghanistan, as we embark upon a new decade of peace, we look to faces such as these to remind us of the future we are working towards with all our efforts. This exhibit encourages us to continue sharing stories of hope, success, and determination as we strive to preserve Afghanistan’s rich culture.
  • I thank you.


[1] Ball, Warwick. “The Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture,” I. B. Tauris (August 19, 2008).

[2] Ibid.