Afghanistan art in return - two unique exhibitions in Herat and Kabul

Portrait of King Babur of Kabul Visiting His Cousin Prince Badi’-uz-Zaman in Herat in 1506.

For the first time in several hundred years, part of Afghanistan's invaluable cultural heritage is again on display in its country of origin. Two large, unique exhibitions in Kabul and Herat highlight miniature paintings are from the 1400s to the 1600s that have been created or roamed in the famous 14th-century Herat School, and appear as enlarged photographs. The paintings were created in the cities of Herat and Kabul in Afghanistan and in Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Istanbul, Baghdad and Tabriz.
The Herat exhibition was opened at the end of 2017 in the city's historic citadel, originally believed to have been built by Alexander the Great in 330 before our timetable. The second exhibition opened in March in the Queen's pavilion in Babur's Garden (Bagh-e Babur) in Kabul. The exhibition has come through thanks to Professor Michael Berry, a leading authority in medieval Islamic art. He tracked reproductions of the miniatures at museums and private collections in Europe, Canada, USA, Turkey, Egypt and India, and then produced the high-resolution enlarged reproductions that are now displayed. The exhibitions were developed in collaboration with Boston University's American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS) supported by the US embassy in Kabul. The exhibition at the Herat Citadel became such a success that the US Embassy asked the authorities to let the exhibition remain as a permanent loan from the US state, which owns the exhibition. The French Embassy contributed financially to the exhibition in Kabul through the Institute de France and Afghanistan.
​Royal courts in fifteenth century Herat and sixteenth century Kabul once sponsored some of the most magnificent pictorial creations in Islamic art. Despite wars and destruction in Afghanistan, many of these miniatures survived, albeit outside the country in public and private collections around the world. After the paintings were taken out of what is now Afghanistan in the second half of the sixteenth century and entered royal collections in Mughal India, Safavid Iran and Ottoman Turkey, many were sold on to European and North American private and public collections in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their enlarged reproductions were only brought together for the first time and put on public display in Afghanistan in 2017.“King Babur’s Kabul: Cradle of the Mughal Empire” displays a selection of high quality reproductions of some of the masterpieces of the Timurid and Mughal periods from the mid-16th century, one of Central Asia’s richest cultural eras.
Read more in a Swedish language blog by Börje Almqvist.