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‘Fasting Buddha’ damaged further during cleaning

Published Jun 26, 2014 06:14am
‘Fasting Buddha’ at Lahore Museum — File photo
‘Fasting Buddha’ at Lahore Museum — File photo

LAHORE: The jewel of Lahore Museum — ‘The Fasting Buddha’ sculpture — carries a fresh scar, the legacy of an amateur attempt at ‘repairing’ one of its arms after an accident during cleaning.

The Buddha had two fingers on its right hand missing and a crack on its left arm since long. The crack was opened up a couple of years back while the staff was cleaning it, Dawn was tipped off by an art lover and conservationist on Wednesday.

Later investigations confirmed the ‘accident’ and the subsequent careless repairing by the people at the museum lab, their restoration effort failing to go beyond application of common adhesive that left damaged more than it restored. The incident happened at the Gandhara Gallery on April 4, 2012, say the museum sources.

They say the statue was “repaired” by museum’s lab staff like an ordinary object instead of being treated by scientific methods of conservation. 

Gandhara Gallery chief Muhammad Mujeeb told Dawn on Wednesday the conservation laboratory staff had filled the crack with simple epoxy.  

When this reporter had a close look at the Fasting Buddha on Wednesday the shiny epoxy applied to repair the arm was clearly visible.

“I had nothing to do with it. The job was carried out by lab staff,” Mujeeb says.

The current Lahore Museum director Sumera Samad, who took over in November 2012, denies any knowledge of the incident.  “Nobody has touched that art piece (during my term),” she says.

A museum expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, is appalled at the damage done to the precious art piece. “It should have been treated scientifically. Proper chemicals should have been applied to restore it through a qualified conservationist,” the expert says.

Though the museum has a conservation lab, it does not have any qualified chemist. The lab is being run by the staff with little knowledge of conservation involved.

The lab is headed by a research officer with a Masters in archaeology — which fall short of qualifying him as a chemical conservationist. The current lab technician was previously working as a gallery attendant and as the driver of a then-director of the museum. A former peon now acts as the lab conservationist.

The museum had a qualified chemist, Waseem Ahmed until 2009. He retired from regular service in 2007 but was then rehired  His term came to an end when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent home all government employees who were on extension.

Hafiz Abdul Azeem, another conservationist who joined the museum in 2009 left the job three months ago, going off to Sweden for his Phd.

Fasting Buddha was excavated at Sikri by Colonel H.A. Dean. It was donated to the museum in 1894. It dates back to Gandhara period.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014