Seventy two high quality reproductions of Mughal art went on display in Kabul’s Bagh-e Babur (Babur Gardens) on Saturday.
“King Babur’s Kabul: Cradle of the Mughal Empire” displays a selection of 72 high quality reproductions of some of the masterpieces of the Timurid and Mughal periods from the mid-16th century.
The exhibition, being held in the Queen’s Palace, in Babur Gardens, for the next three months, was curated by Michael Barry, a world expert on Afghan art and culture.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Barry said he had visited Kabul at the height of the civil war in the 1990s.
“Here in the Bagh-e Babur, what we saw in 1994 was wreckage, broken trees, shells fired. The beautiful 17th century marble mosque here was full of bullet holes. All we saw was despair and ugliness.”
Barry said this motivated him to not just bring humanitarian aid to Afghanistan but to help restore some of the cultural heritage lost to the country through years of war.
“In this garden, we will bring back the magnificent paintings which so influenced world civilization, back to the Afghans, right here in this historical environment,” he said.
The Bagh-e Babur is one of the oldest surviving Mughal gardens and was named after the first emperor of the Mughal dynasty.
Babur loved Kabul and was buried in the garden which he ordered to be created after he conquered the city in 1504.
However, the garden and palace was largely destroyed in the 1990s but was restored with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation in 2008 and the Queen’s Palace has since been used for many exhibitions.
The latest one, “King Babur’s Kabul: Cradle of the Mughal Empire”, aims to bring back some of Afghanistan’s heritage to the people.
According to Reuters, these Mughal masterpieces, have been dispersed outside Afghanistan over the centuries and while their removal undoubtedly saved many precious artworks from destruction, their loss has deprived Afghans of a central pillar of their cultural heritage.
But through Barry’s efforts and using state-of-the-art printing techniques, dozens of miniatures have been reproduced on metal and put on display, showing a fabled world of poets, rulers, hunters and scenes of court life and making clear the considerable interplay that existed between European and Mughal art.
"Many of these disappeared from Afghanistan over 500 years ago, and even then only Shahs (kings) and Wazirs (ministers) and maybe senior scholars had an opportunity to see them," said Thomas Barfield, President of the American Institute of Afghan Studies, which oversaw the organization of the exhibition.
Mughal paintings are a particular style of South Asian painting, generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting - itself largely of Chinese origin - with Indian Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed largely in the court of the Mughal Empire of the 16th to 18th centuries.