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King Bâbur’s Kâbul: Cradle of the Mughal Empire
Exhibition at Babur’s Gardens Honours Babur’s Legacy on the Arts of Afghanistan

March 31, 2018 – June 30, 2018

(Kabul, Afghanistan, March 31, 2018) – The American Institute of Afghanistan Studies (AIAS), in conjunction with the Kabul Municipality and the Embassy of the United States in Kabul, is pleased to announce the opening of “King Bâbur’s Kâbul: Cradle of the Mughal Empire” at Babur’s Gardens. This exhibition builds upon the exhibition which opened at Herat Castle in December 2017, and showcases state-of-the-art reproductions of 72 paintings from the mid-16thcentury Mughal period in Kabul with closely related 16th- and 17th-century Indian Mughal paintings.

The series retraces development of royal painting in Afghanistan under the Western Timurids at Herât and then under the Mughal Timurids in Kabul from the early 15th century to the founding of the Afghan kingdom in the 18th century. During the mid 16th century, Kabul became known as the new Florence of the Islamic East, as Humâyûn attracted the finest painters of his cultural sphere: Mîr Musawwir (born in Badakhshân and originally trained in Herât) with his equally talented son, Mîr Sayyid `Alî; Dôst-Muhammad of Herât (author of the 16th-century’s authoritative Persian-language chronicles of the arts); and Abd-us-Samad of Tabrîz. These masters in Kabul created the so-called Mughal School of Art.

The artists and the library all followed Humâyûn to Delhi when Bâbur’s successor recovered his Indian domains in 1555. On Indian soil, the Kabul masters trained a whole new generation of Indian painters, who blended the old classical lessons of Herât with new European Renaissance influences in modelling and shading, to depict – among other subjects – the epic career of the Mughal founder, Bâbur, and later, the 16th- and 17th-century military efforts of Mughal Emperors Humâyûn, Akbar, Jahângîr, Shâh Jahân and Aurangzêb to retain supremacy in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

The purpose of this series is to restore access and awareness in Afghanistan – and abroad – regarding this central cultural heritage. Not one original painting from this period remains on Afghan soil. While their international dispersal since the sixteenth century undoubtedly saved these delicate works of art, it also remains an almost unparalleled educational tragedy that such an extraordinary cultural legacy should have become so utterly lost – from sight and memory – to the Afghan people today.

Part I of the series, featuring 106 images in Herat, opened on December 2, 2017. Part II was opened in Kabul on March 31, 2018 to commemorate Nouroz (the New Year). The program is curated and conceptualized by Dr. Michael Barry (Distinguished Professor, American University of Afghanistan; formerly Princeton University) who co-leads the program with Dr. Thomas Barfield (Professor, Boston University; President, AIAS). Logistical support is provided by Mikaela Ringquist (Grant Director, AIAS); Rohullah Amin (Kabul Director, AIAS); Annika Schmeding (Project Coordinator, AIAS); Sami Azim (Program Development and Communications Officer, AIAS); Zafar Daqiq (Administrative Officer, AIAS); and James Souza (U.S. Administrative Director, AIAS). Reproductions on Dibond metal are made by Central Dupon Laboratories in Paris, France.

This exhibition is made possible under the auspices of the generous support of the United States Embassy in Kabul, with support of the Embassy of France in Kabul

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