For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
May 15, 2002
Mrs. Bush's Remarks at an Afghan Art Exhibit
Good morning. Mrs. Leach and I just toured "Afghanistan: A Millennial History". a remarkable feature-exhibition of Afghan culture and heritage.
We viewed ancient coins, writings in fine calligraphy, pottery, and other works of art dating as far back as the Bronze Age. This exhibit is assembled in homage to the cultural history of Afghanistan and the civilizations that shaped the country.
The rugged and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan forms a natural geographic boundary separating China from Europe and Western Asia.and it is a historic a passageway between the East and West. Many traveled through this region. Among them were the Greeks, Persians, Indians, and Buddhists. Many cultures left an indelible mark on the region, including the Kushan people, who revealed the first images of Buddha in human form on mountainsides and cave walls.
Some of the first images in this Afghan exhibit are those of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan.
In February 2001 Mullah Omar ordered the destruction of the giant stone carvings, which were the largest in the world. The ruins left behind are reminders of the consequences of war and oppression, and the loss of these treasures is a loss for all of humanity.
Amanullah Haiderzad, professor and founder of the fine arts department at Kabul University, is part of an effort to eventually restore the Buddhas. When he spoke of their destruction, he said, "I cry to see that our (country's) heritage is gone."
Fortunately, war has given way to hope and reconstruction in Afghanistan. And today we celebrate because while some might try to destroy art and culture, many more people are devoted to preserving and protecting these precious things.
The crisis of the Buddhas inspired the effort to assemble this exhibit. I appreciate those who graciously contributed to this exhibit from both private and public collections, and those who look after it. I thank the Muse Guimet for hosting this fabulous exhibit for Mrs. Leach and me today. Thank you.
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