gandao, afghanistan, France, Lyon, collections, expeditions, museums, night at the museum, grave, kalash, kalasha, Chitral

Two seasoned travellers: From Afghanistan to Denmark to France

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Most of our artefacts spend their days in the cold and the dark. They might be nestled in acid free tissue paper in a cardboard box, or they might lie on a compact shelf whiling the years away. A few lucky artefacts may see the light of an exhibition, proudly displayed in a glass case, professionally lit and surrounded by a scenery designed to tell its story. I’m not one for holding back when it comes to attributing inanimate objects with feelings, so I imagine them delighted to finally be in the spotlight for a few months…

This week, I am keeping company with some extra lucky artefacts. The Musée des Confluences on Lyon, France, contacted Moesgaard Museum earlier this year, as they had read about our exceptional collections from the Kalasha region in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are making an exhibition about the Kalash people, and wanted to borrow two so-called gandao figures; humanoid wooden figures, which were placed on the graves of important people. Three of our gandao are already exhibited in our Lives of the Dead exhibition, but one poor figure had yet to have its time in the spotlight. So I offered them that, as well as a gundurik: a figure of a rider on horseback, which would be placed atop a decorated pole and placed in a dead man’s field or at the entrance to his village.

So here we are in Lyon, the three of us. The figures have travelled ahead of me in their own special truck, and soon I will be unpacking them so they can be placed in their new temporary home in the new and cutting edge Musée des Confluences.

And what an odd thought that is… these wooden figures, made to watch over the grave and land of some important man in the Chitral Mountains, brought to Denmark in the 1940s, eventually to be stored first in the basement of the stable of a 17th century manor house, then in a modern museum. Only to be packed gently in wooden crates and sent off to Lyon, where they will be displayed proudly along artefacts with that same origin, but very different journeys. In my wildest ‘Night at the Museum’ fantasies, I imagine they have quite a few stories to tell each other, once the guests have gone home and the lights are off.

//Sophie Seebach

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One thought on “Two seasoned travellers: From Afghanistan to Denmark to France”

  1. Pingback: Post card from Lyon: Behind the scenes of a museum loan | ethnographica

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