Saturday, 21 July 2007

Cunning plan No. 7a part II

The past week has been quite productive, even though we’re still in K and unlikely to get to Ghur now. We’ve been volunteering our services / skills in the museum – Jane, our conservator, has been cleaning Timurid (15th century) gravestones and a Buddhist figurine head, Piet’s started drawing the former (see above left), ably assisted by Naqshband and the rest of us have made an inventory of over 1000 bags of pottery from the British / Australian excavations at Kandahar in the late 70s (we’re probably only about half way through).
The pottery turned up in the basement of the former British Embassy in 2004 – we’re assessing how much of it has survived 30 years of conflict and neglect, so that future researchers will at least be able to find what remains easily. It’s tedious, dusty work (above right), as some of the bags have disintegrated, but the Kandahar team deserve commendation for double-labelling their bags and Alison periodically gets excited by an unusual form or extravagant glaze… each to their own!
Iain’s doing what he can with museum staff requiring First Aid, and will train some of them in basic procedures – it’s sobering to hear some of their stories from the war years.
We’ve finalised the bi-lingual educational booklets, and the British Council has offered to pay for 2000 copies, on top of the 500 we were going to print anyway. This support is a great fillip, and we may translate the booklets into Pashto, as well as Dari, so as to reach the maximum Afghan audience.
On Wednesday, Alison and I had a tour of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation with its founder / CEO Rory Stewart, who walked through Afghanistan in 2001/2 and was one of the first people to publicise the extent of the looting at Jam. TMF’s work, revitalising traditional craft industries and renovating Murad Khane, a largely 19th century district of Kabul, is inspirational.

Thursday saw us unexpectedly ushered in to a meeting with the Min. of Culture, to discuss our work at Jam (or rather lack of work there). We think that we now know why we’ve been blocked even going there to collect the remaining sherds for study… well, not so much why, but who has blocked us. I expect that if we can arrange a meeting with those involved this week, it will result in a “frank exchange of views”, to use diplomatic parlance! What else the forthcoming week holds is anyone’s guess.

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