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Kaboul: Le Passé Confisqué, Dominique Darbois
Sept 5 - Oct 13 , 2002
Wed - Sat 11 am - 5 pm
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The work of French photographer Dominique Darbois in the Museum of Kabul, Afghanistan, from 1962-1965 preserves for the world a great artistic heritage that today has almost totally disappeared. The Kabul Museum housed one of the great collections of antiquities from Asia, a collection that spoke to centuries of civilization and conquest in central and southern Asia from Neolithic times to Alexander the Great (300 A.D.), through the coming and spread of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Today the Museum is in ruins and 90% of its collection has been destroyed, pillaged, or illegally sold abroad.

Situated along the great trade routes linking eastern Europe and Asia Minor to Persia (Iran), the Indian subcontinent and China, Afghanistan was a cultural and religious crossroads for centuries. But more than a crossroads, the regions of Afghanistan were also centers of civilization, creating and collecting important monuments and artifacts of art and faith.

For centuries, many of the treasures of Afghanistan lay buried in the earth or under the ruins of temples, palaces, and monasteries. After World War I, the first of many archaeological investigations began in Afghanistan. In 1922, the French delegation of DAFA (Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan, 1922-1982) was created in Kabul by agreement with the leader of Afghanistan to begin these investigations. Anticipating the results of these investigations, King Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan decided that the discoveries would be made available to the public and a museum would be built in a new suburb, Darulaman, of the capital Kabul. In 1931, the Museum of Kabul was inaugurated by his successor Nader Khan to preserve and display the artistic heritage of Afghanistan.

Many of the most important artistic discoveries were made by the French archaeologists working with Afghan researchers between the late 1920’s and mid 1960’s. In later years, Italian, German and Russian archaeologists worked in Afghanistan as well. Dominique Darbois worked in Afghanistan at a key period during the archaeological investigations when the Museum’s collection was in formation and intact.

In her foreword to the book Kaboul, Le Passé Confisqué, on which this FotoFest exhibition is based, Francine Tissot writes:

The vision built on the narratives of travelers, caravans of men and animals, sliding down the slopes of the Hindu-Kush and the Pamirs, stirred us to take this voyage. We have been witnesses to the discovery of these immense places: Aï-Khanoum, Bactria, Bamiyan, Hadda, and the ruins of Islam in the deserts of the south where morning fog floats over the ruined houses.
The center of our understanding of this country is the Museum of Kabul that, for 50 years, received what the researchers brought out of the land of Afghanistan, all that revealed its history that, for so long, was unknown.

From Kaboul, Le Passé Confisqué, Éditions Findakly, Paris Musées, 2002.

For more details: PRESS RELEASE

Dominique Darbois was born in Paris, France in 1925, and has been photographing for over 50 years in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the United States.

During II World War, Darbois was active in the Free French Forces. In 1942, she was imprisoned by the Gestapo. In 1944, at the end of the War she received the “Croix de Guerre” for her work with the French Resistance.

In 1946, she began photographing professionally and did major journalistic work in Cambodia. From 1949 to the present, she has photographed throughout the world, including Laos, Indonesia, URSS, Australia, Mexico, Guatemala, Algeria, Iran, and the Congo. In 1952, she received the “Prix Exploration” from the President of the French Republic.

Since 1952, her documentary projects have taken three principal directions: illustration and publication of books, collaboration with French and foreign magazines, and documentary essays. Alongside her photography, she was hired to create audiovisual programs on radio and television for a number of African countries. She also did a number of conferences for school children.

From 1952 through 1978, she completed 20 books for the collection Les Enfants du Monde [Children of the World], with the publishing group Fernand Nathan in Paris.

In 1963, she participated in the photographic mission of the Swiss scientific research program in Afghanistan. In 1965, she photographed in both in Iran and Afghanistan, and completed her work on the Kabul Museum.

Darbois had her first solo exhibition during 1951 in Paris. Since 1984, she has had numerous exhibitions of her African photography and her work on women of different cultures. In the late 1990’s, she did a major exhibition on women called Regards de Femmes.

In addition to the many books she has published in the collection Les Enfant du Monde, she has also published work on Amazon Indians, African sculpture, Chinese landscape painting, Egyptian art, and Oriental carpets. In the late 1960’s she did a number of publications of her work on Afghanistan art, including L’Afghanistan et son art (Editions Cercle d’Art, Paris, 1968), and Afghanistan und Seine Kunst (Artia Press, Prague, 1968).

Dominique Darbois lives and works in Paris, France.