Afghan art restorers learn new techniques in Italy
Rome, October 31, 2006 (AFP) - A group of Afghan art restorers, fresh from a six-week training course in Italy focusing on wall paintings, will head home soon to apply new techniques to preservation work in their war-torn homeland.
"Over 30 years of war we lost so many valuable things," Mohammad Daoud Lali said as he received his diploma Tuesday. "We are very grateful to learn new things."
His colleague Ahmad Shah said the six employees of the National Museum of Afghanistan learned how to analyze the composition of wall paintings to determine what chemicals to use in restoring them.
The course, the third edition of a program begun in 2004 with funding from the Italian government, took place at Rome's Art Restoration Institute and at the ancient Greek sites of Heraclea and Siris in southern Italy, where the students got hands-on experience.
Many Afghan building complexes "both religious and civil, were lavishly decorated with mural paintings," archeologist Anna Filigenzi told AFP after the ceremony. "What we have, although fragments, give us a picture of a great painting tradition, a long-living tradition of high quality."
She said that many of the paintings are on fragile clay walls, and the students also learned methods for reinforcing the walls.
"Thirty percent of the objects were lost under the mujahedeen (warlords), another 30 percent were damaged or looted by the Taliban. We hope to preserve the 40 percent that's left," said Reza Sharifi, the group's interpreter.
"We have a good range of historical objects in the museum from prehistoric times to now," he added.
Much of Afghanistan's ancient art heritage was destroyed during Afghanistan's civil war of the 1980s and 1990s and under the Taliban.
The most serious act of destruction was of the giant Buddha statues in the central town of Bamiyan in 2001, shortly before the Taliban were ousted from power by US-led forces.
Whether to restore or simply conserve what is left of the ruined statues is "a very hot conversation between many groups in Afghanistan," Sharifi said, adding: "Our government hasn't decided."