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    Culture

    Artifacts from Muslim world on display in New York

    NEW YORK (PAN): The New Galleries from the Art of Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, Central and South Asia and Afghanistan were displayed on Monday in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

    The 15 new galleries, including five historical objects from Afghanistan’s Ghazni City, were showcased at the museum at a ceremony attended by hundreds of culturists and art lovers.

    Afghanistan’s relics included two Ghaznavid-era bronze bowls inscribed with Arabic text. The Ghaznavids ruled the region from Afghanistan to northern India from 977 through 1186. Other three items include rare 13th century wall tiles, engraved with animals, from the Ghori era.

    Ghazni is to become the Centre of Islamic Culture and Civilisation in 2013 based on a decision taken by culture ministers from Muslim countries in 2007 in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, and approved by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO).

    Repaired at a cost of $50 million, the new galleries are part of an important collection of Islamic Art at the museum, considered to be the best and inclusive, highlighting interactions between various cultures.

    Thomas P. Campbell, the director and CEO of the museum, said: "Today is a landmark day for the Metropolitan Museum as we celebrate the new Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central and South Asia -- a spectacular achievement for the museum and its Islamic Art Department."

    Campbell added the new galleries highlighted their goal of the museum's inclusiveness and this was a defining moment in the life of the Met, after which it would never quite be the same again to exhibit the depth and magnificence of the Islamic tradition.

    "These 15 new galleries now trace the full course of Islamic civilisation, over a span of 14 centuries, from the Middle East to North Africa, Europe, and Central and South Asia," he said.

    The geographic emphasis signalled the revised perspective they had on the important collection, recognising the monumentality of Islam did not create a single, monolithic artistic expression. Instead, they connected a vast cultural expanse through centuries of change and influence, he continued.

    The director said: "We must recognise that we live in a nation where a widespread consciousness about the Islamic world really did not exist until 10 years ago, and that awareness came at one of the darkest hours in American history."

    Sheila Canby, head of the museum’s Islamic Art Department, said many valuable historical objects had been collected from different regions, whose value could not be underestimated.

    Donated or purchased over the 140-year-long history of the museum, the exhibits include 12,000 artifacts from Spain in the west to India in the east, indicating all styles of arts beyond the seventh century. The first collection of the items was showcased in 1975.

    Some archaeologists and artificers have embarked a comprehensive maintenance programme for the objects, including the museum’s handwritings and glass items, as well as exceptional mats, as part of the galleries’ refurbishment.

    One masterpiece is the luxurious Damascus Room built in 1707, the best pattern of a wealthy Syrian’s house during the Ottoman period. Also on display is an alter (adytum), decorated with blue and ultramarine tiles, from the 14th-century Esfahan.

    The new galleries were closed because of the rehabilitation work in May 2003. The programmes designed for maintenance are supported by cultural organisations and activists, such as Charmen and Bezhan Musawer Rahmani, Islamic Art Foundation, Aqa Khan Music Initiative, Agha Khan Cultural Foundation Union, American Organisation for Studies on Iran, Moroccan-American Cultural Centre.

    Maryam Ekhtyar, a senior researcher of the galleries, told Pajhwok Afghan News the repairs and research took eight years to complete.

    mbg/mud