Shahidul News has a touching story on the protest to halt sending Bangladeshi artifacts to Musee Guimet, France.
However, there are other sides of the story.
Rumi Ahmed answers the skeptics with a question answer style:
What is the “Sonar Bangla” exhibition?
This exhibition is scheduled to showcase 189 pieces of Bangladeshi ancient art, over four months from October 2007 to March 2008 at the National Museum of Asiatic Art, the Musee Guimet, Paris. It has been planned for several years, and has involved extensive negotiations between the governments of France and Bangladesh.
It is being held at one of the most prestigious venues for Asian art in the whole of Europe, a major national museum which holds an important permanent collection of South Asian art. It recently held very well reviewed exhibitions of Afghan gold and Cambodian ancient art.
It is the first major international exhibition of Bangladeshi ancient art — the first opportunity the world will have to see our national heritage, and to see it in all its diversity and richness. It will show a face of Bangladesh which is little known in the west. It is likely to generate not only new interest in Bangladesh, but to catalyse further research and perhaps also future cultural exchanges and engagement.
Why are some people objecting to the exhibition?
As each objection has been met and responded to, new ones have been generated. It seems that the real objection of many of the “experts” is that they were not involved/consulted.
1. The Musee Guimet is not a state museum [stated by the writ petitioners’ lawyer].
The Museum is a national museum, and regulated, like all other national museums by the Director Museums, an official of the Ministry of Culture. It’s not very difficult to find this out, just go on the website of the French government.
2. The Musee Guimet is not well known and has a dubious past.
The Museum is internationally renowned as one of the leading European museums of Asian art.
3. The artefacts listed for exhibition include unique pieces and these are too valuable too travel, so only replicas should be taken [stated by “experts” eg Prof. Shafi].
International exhibitions do not show replicas, but only originals. Visitors to art exhibitions are interested in seeing original, unique pieces. Please check the details of the Tutankhamun exhibition, the Pompeii Exhibition, the Arts of Persia Exhibition etc. all held in major international venues, and more recently the Gupta sculptures exhibition held in Paris.
The artefacts if sent in the original will be copied while abroad, and the French Government will keep the originals and return the copies and no-one in Bangladesh will know the difference. [Dr. Yuree, and also Prof. Shafi] In addition to a clause in the agreement that the artifacts will be returned within four weeks, the French government has passed an order — as is usual — clearly stating that under no circumstances could the artefacts be retained in France on conclusion of the exhibition. It should be noted that while many artefacts have been and continue to be smuggled out of Bangladesh, this is invariably by individuals and is hardly likely in the context of a government to government agreement.
6. The French would never allow the Mona Lisa or Picassos to travel [Prof. Nizamuddin, an “expert” and petitioner seeking injunction].
Of course the Mona Lisa has travelled abroad as have many Picasso artworks (including to India).
7. The removal of the artefacts will hamper research [Prof. Shafi of Jahangirnagar Univ].
Quite the contrary. It will enable new interest in the artefacts to be generated. Physical examination of individual items is not always necessary for research.
Concerns for clarification.
One of the government officials who is supposed to travel with the exhibit has earlier been accused of theft of artefacts [raised by writ petitioners and their lawyer].
There is an absolute prohibition of any unique antiquities being taken abroad.
This is a misreading of the law. Antiquities may be sent on “temporary export” “for purposes of exhibition etc