I am sure that the exhibition “Afghanistan: The hidden history” will enrich our picture of Afghanistan. It will give a Norwegian audience a unique opportunity to learn about aspects of Afghanistan that we do not always encounter in the media – the richness of its own history and the immensely important role it has played in world history.
This exhibition is also a tribute to those Afghans who, at great personal risk, preserved these precious objects when tyrant rulers of different persuasions saw it in their interest to hide or destroy these treasures of the country’s past.
Afghanistan – the name is loaded with history and adventure – but also with images of war and conflict. We, who are old enough, remember that the Cold War became much colder just after Christmas 1979 when news came from Kabul of the Soviet invasion. And then, just over 20 years later, in September 2001, fingers were immediately pointed towards that rugged mountain country, at that time primarily known for the barbarism of the Taliban. Since then, Afghanistan has had a constant presence in our news media, but rarely on a positive note. This gloomy view is not new. The most famous reference to the country in Western poetry, from a colonial point of view, is Kipling’s line “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains”.
But if we turn to the poetry of Afghanistan itself, the outlook on life is of course far more diverse. It is not naively optimistic; anyone who reads Afghan poetry will soon notice its melancholy (not unlike Nordic poetry?), its laconically sarcastic observations, and its sense of paradox. But there are also accolades to the sheer beauty of life, such as Daqiqi of Balkh’s words of more than a thousand years ago: “A cloud from Paradise has bestowed an emerald gown on the Earth... An artist has drawn an image of my love on the desert. The world has become peaceful for both the tiger and the deer.”
That peaceful world may seem remote from Afghanistan today. But our understanding of this country, which attracts so much of our attention, is not complete unless we also familiarise ourselves with its rich history, its beauty, its impressive cultural heritage and its contributions to mankind’s common civilisation. For, as the 13th century poet Jalaludin Balkhi Rumi put it, “Ignorance is God’s prison, knowledge is God’s palace”.
The Norwegian Government is very proud that the NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology in Trondheim is joining a number of prestigious venues in Europe and Asia that have been trusted with this magnificent collection. I would like to thank the Kabul National Museum and the NTNU for having made this exhibition available to us.
Oslo, May 2012
See more about the exhibition.