Image when the taller of the two Bamiyan Buddhas was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001
In a bizarre and unauthorised attempt to reconstruct the Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in 2001, a team of archaeologists from the German branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), led by Michael Petzet, has been ordered by UNESCO to halt further work on the shattered statues.
Alessandro Martini and Ermanno Rivetti, writing for The Art Newspaper, reports –
The international community has reacted furiously to news that a German-led team of archaeologists has been reconstructing the feet and legs of the smaller of the two Bamiyan Buddhas, the monumental Afghan sculptures blown up by the Taliban in 2001. News of this reconstruction, which has taken place without Unesco’s knowledge or permission, was revealed during the 12th meeting of Unesco’s Bamiyan working group, in Orvieto, Italy, in December.
A team of archaeologists from the German branch of Icomos (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), led by Michael Petzet, who himself served as the head of Icomos from 1999 to 2008, spent most of last year rebuilding the smaller Buddha’s lower appendages with iron rods, reinforced concrete and bricks, an operation that Francesco Bandarin, Unesco’s assistant director-general for culture, describes as “wrong on every level”. He says: “Unesco has nothing to do with this project. It was undertaken without the consent of the Afghan government and has now been stopped.”
Meanwhile, one glimmer of good news in this sad saga –
The largest initiative is a cultural centre and museum devoted to the area’s rich Buddhist and Muslim history. This “goes beyond the missing Buddhas”, says Andrea Bruno. The building, inspired by the traditional Afghan “fortress-house”, will sit on a plateau that faces the cliff into which the statues were hewn. South Korea has said that it will foot the $5.4m bill. The building is expected to be finished in October 2016, if conditions on the ground permit.
The proposed Bamiyan Cultural Centre and Museum, designed by Andrea Bruno and to be funded by South Korea, will look towards the site from across the valley where the Buddhas once stood.