Berlin exhibition shows another side to Pakistan

Wed Apr 15, 2009 5:29am EDT
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By Dave Graham

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Sculpted figures from Greek myth line up alongside seated statues of Buddha and images of ancient Indian deities in a new Berlin exhibition of artworks from one of the world's biggest Muslim nations, Pakistan.

Tracing the far-reaching cultural legacy of Alexander the Great's conquests in South Asia, the collection in the Martin Gropius Bau from the historic region of Gandhara is the biggest of its kind ever to be shown outside Pakistan.

"The exhibition shows a very different side of Pakistan to what the media tends to present," said Christian Luczanits, a curator of the exhibition. "The multi-cultural links to the West that Gandhara reveals are simply fascinating."

Centred on modern Peshawar, Gandhara became a nexus for the fusion of western and eastern culture after it successively fell under the control of Persia, Macedon, the Mauryans, Greeks from neighboring Bactria and the Buddhist empire of the Kushans.

Alexander died in 323 B.C., just a few years after invading the region, and the Hellenistic influence emerged only through his Macedonian and Greek successors in the area.

The ensuing cross-fertilization of Greek art forms with local traditions proved so successful it endured for nearly a millennium, bringing a classical naturalism to sculpture in Buddhism, whose origins lay in the Indian subcontinent.

At a time when international news coverage of Pakistan has been filled with reports of civil unrest and religious strife, the exhibition is an important reminder of the positive achievements of the region's historic diversity, Luczanits said.

"This exhibition has global resonance, and it will hopefully have major resonance in Pakistan too that the country's cultural legacy is getting international recognition," he said.   Continued...