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Washington Press Catches First Glimpse of Afghanistan’s “Hidden Treasures”  

Ambassador Said T. Jawad joined Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Karim Khurram and a group of several hundred distinguished guests, experts, and journalists to preview the exhibit “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” at the National Gallery of Art in Washington on May 20.

After a traditional Afghan breakfast and a round of speeches and presentations, guests were given the opportunity to view the 228 pieces in the collection, some dating back over 4,000 years. During the decades of conflict that wracked Afghanistan, many of the country’s treasures and historic artifacts were hidden away by ordinary Afghan citizens, only to be uncovered in 2003. The exhibit – which opens to the public on May 25 and was made possible by the National Geographic Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities – represents the first time many of Afghanistan’s most prized historic artifacts have been displayed to the public. 

In an opening ceremony, Ambassador Jawad and Minister Khurram were joined by a number of distinguished speakers, including Earl A. Powell, Director of the National Gallery of Art; Terry D. Garcia, Executive Vice-President for Mission Programs at the National Geographic Society; Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities; Elliot Gerson, director of National Construction and Logistics; and Fredrick T. Hiebert, the exhibition curator and a National Geographic Fellow.

In a speech, Ambassador Jawad noted that the exhibit reflects the diversity of cultures and civilizations that have marked Afghanistan’s long history as a continental crossroad. “Our Hidden Treasures are a fusion of Roman, Greek, Persian, Chinese, Indian and Balkan art influences with the unique Afghan and Bactrian characteristics,” he said. Ambassador Jawad also recognized the efforts of the Afghans – some of whom attended the event – that risked their lives to protect the ancient artifacts during decades of conflict. “These men and a few other remarkable individuals demonstrated tremendous courage, dedication and heroism in preserving and protecting Afghanistan’s and humanity’s cultural heritage,” he stated. The Ambassador also made an appeal to the world's private collectors and museums to support the Afghan governments efforts to return stolen objects of Afghan national heritage to the National Museum.

Minister Khurram spoke of Afghanistan’s history and the importance of the exhibit in creating links between cultures and countries. “These historical items that we have gathered for today in this exhibit are the evidence of thousands of years of history, and the long and beneficial human relations between our people and other nations of the world,” he said. 

National Geographic Society Executive Vice President Terry Garcia announced the creation of a the Afghan Children's Fund, which will replace the current Afghan Girls Fund, a grant-making program that raised more than $1,000,000 since its inception in 2002. The new Afghan Children's Fund will expand education efforts in Afghanistan with a broader mission, including serving programs for Afghan refugee children who live in Pakistan.

The exhibit will remain at the National Gallery until September 7, and is free to the public. After that, it travels to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco (October 24, 2008 – January 25, 2009), the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (February 22, 2009 – May 17, 2009) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (June 23, 2009 – September 20, 2009).

To learn more about the exhibit, visit:

http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org/02.19.2008HTOA.html

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