December 6, 2006

Restoring the Bamiyan Buddhas.

The huge task:
German restorers from the International Council on Monuments and Sites have spent two years carefully sorting through the debris from both Buddhas, lifting out the largest sections by crane — some weigh 70, even 90 tons — and placing them under cover, because the soft stone disintegrates in rain or snow. The smaller fragments and mounds of dust are carefully piled up at the side.

Reports that the Taliban had taken away 40 truckloads of the stone from the statues to sell were not true, said Edmund Melzl, a restorer. “From the volume we think we have everything,” he said. Yet only 60 percent of that volume is stone, he added. The rest crumbled to dust in the explosions.
A surprising fact:
The Buddhas were only roughly carved in the rock, which was then covered in a mud plaster mixed with straw and horsehair molded to depict the folds of their robes and then painted in bright colors.
To remain a world heritage site, the statues need to be rebuilt out of the old pieces -- up to 90 tons of material. Quite aside from the difficulty of the project, there is some question whether it is right to spend the money -- $50 million -- on this in such a poor country. And there must be some question -- though the article barely refers to it -- about whether people in a Muslim country want giant Buddhist sculptures in the open landscape. The Taliban hated them enough to destroy them. Even assuming that few Afghans supported the outright destruction of the statues, how much do they want them back, what do they think of all the outsiders who care so assiduously about it, and do they really want all the tourists?

But there is already a plan to put on a big laser show that will project images of the Buddhas into the empty niches, a plan that involves hundreds of windmills and is designed to supply electricity to the local citizens. Presumably, these projects are made palatable by offering poor people benefits that outweigh any opposition they might otherwise have. But I'd really like to know what the local people think of it aside from the economic benefits they will be promised. Does anyone ask them?

13 comments:

alphie said...

When America begins to restore the Constitution in January, will we think its worth the cost?

Windmills and light shows for Washington, D.C.?

thefewandtheplenty said...

Um...duh! Those people don't speak English so how were the German restorers gonna ask the locals?

chrisburp said...

Sure, they asked them. Just like poor people in Africa (and elsewhere) were asked if it was okay to ban DDT to combat malaria. (Just because a lot of people here and in other Western countries felt bad about the birdies)

Tim said...

Unbelievable. In a great depiction of why the feckless West isn't up to the task of winning the war against militant Islamic fascism, German restorers will spend $50 million or more on restoring statues that have already provoked militant Islamic anger in a country torn by war over militant Islamism while at the same time Germany's government has yet again rejected calls by NATO to send German troops from the pacified Afghan north south to combat Taliban remnants.

And if NATO and the US fail to secure Afghanistan from the Taliban, just exactly who do the German restorers and their government think will defend the statues from being blown to pieces all over again?

Resolutions from the UN and other assorted international "heavy weight" organizations?

All you can do is laugh for fear of crying. Pathetic.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Goesh said...

I would hope them Krauts can restore some of the women stoned for adultery....50 million could go a long ways to restoring some of the old irrigation canals the Soviets destroyed in their slash n' burn campaign against the Mujahadeen. Growing the ol' poppy feeds kids and buys things but I have no doubt they would grow grain and other legal things too if they had the irrigation for it.

Palladian said...

Lamest. Comment. Ever, alphie.

It's like a new version of the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game: how many steps does it take to get from any topic, say ancient Buddhas, to a lame jab at Bushitler and his brownshirts? Not a fun game though, since it usually takes only one step.

Besides, if we wanted to "restore" the Constitution, we'd have to travel back in time, back before the dread Bush was even born, and change scores of Supreme Court decisions, many of which were the result of decisions by the "New Deal liberal" court, right up to the "liberal" decision in Kelo v. New London. So let's not dredge up all that rubble and dust, ok? Let's talk about Buddhas!

It's a good and difficult question: to what do we owe deference: the opinions of a sparse, nomadic population or the religious, aesthetic and historical importance of a site that predates, by far, the current occupants, religion and government? Do these people "own" the site or should they be considered temporary stewards of a site that they had no right to destroy in the first place?

Jeff said...

"there is already a plan to put on a big laser show that will project images of the Buddhas into the empty niches"

There's a metaphor in there somewhere for how the Dems project newfound "rights" onto the niche once occupied by the Constitution (that they themselves mortared into dust). Somewhere, I say!!!

alphie said...

Well palladian, consider this:

The Taliban guy who was in charge of blowing up the statues now has a seat in Afghanistan's Potemkin Parliament.

Maybe Bush could ask him where the missing pieces are if he sneaks into Kabul for another photo op.

tjl said...

alphie alleges,
"The Taliban guy who was in charge of blowing up the statues now has a seat in Afghanistan's Potemkin Parliament."

Alphie, if it's really a Potemkin parliament (assembled no doubt by Halliburton), why did they include representatives of the Taliban?

Restoring the Buddhas might make sense at some future time when tourists might actually find it safe to visit Afghanistan. Right now the locals could probably think of a few higher priorities for the $50 million, like rebuilding the schools the Taliban burned down.

Palladian asks,
"Do these people "own" the site or should they be considered temporary stewards of a site that they had no right to destroy in the first place?"

An interesting question, particularly if radical Islamists ever take power in Egypt.

G said...

Lay off alphie, Ann caused alphie's confusion when she wrote:
"To remain a world heritage site, the statutes need to be rebuilt out of the old pieces".

Like, sort of, the, uh, constitution, or something kinda like that. I guess.

Eli Blake said...

I know people in a whole community not too far from my home, on the Navajo reservation, that don't have electricity.

Why can't they take care of things like that in the United States before they go spending the money to build electrical projects in Afghanistan?

paul a'barge said...

Here's the wonderful irony around Bamiyan ... practicing Buddhists would read of the plan to rebuild the statues and roll their eyes.

You just can't make this stuff up.