The double-headed Eagle Stupa in Sirkap, Taxila. – Source: The US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Pakistan
The double-headed Eagle Stupa in Sirkap, Taxila. – Source: The US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Large photographs of colourful frescos were displayed on the walls at the Satrang Gallery on Tuesday, as guests arrived for the book launch and photography exhibition highlighting the United States’ role in cultural preservation in Pakistan

Among the photographs on display was one of a floral fresco with intricate detail in white, red and blue from the prayer hall in Mohabbat Khan Mosque in Peshawar.

The mosque was built in 1670 and over the years the Mughal-era stucco, plaster and painted decorations required restoration which was taken up by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) in Pakistan in 2002-2003.

Outer facade of the western gate of Gor Khatri in Peshawar
Outer facade of the western gate of Gor Khatri in Peshawar

Another large photograph on display was a floral fresco from the prayer hall in the Sunehri Mosque in Kashmiri Bazaar in Lahore which is known for its gilded domes.

Preservation work at this mosque built in 1749 was carried out under the AFCP grant between 2010 and 2012. Under the project, the original design was restored using traditional methods and ensuring the structural integrity of the site.

This Mughal-era mosque was among 18 such sites where preservation work was carried out by the AFCP in collaboration with partners in the Pakistani federal and provincial governments.

One of the domes of Sunehri Mosque in Lahore
One of the domes of Sunehri Mosque in Lahore

The first site which received a grant was Sirkap in Taxila in 2001-2002 while the latest is the preservation of the tombs of Sultan Ibrahim Bin Mirza Mohammad Isa Tarkhan and Amir Sultan Mohammad in Makli.

US Ambassador Richard G. Olsen talked about his memorable trip to the necropolis in Makli Hills where he travelled along with conservation architect Yasmeen Lari of Heritage Foundation of Pakistan.

He said that this site, the first from Sindh to be taken up by the AFCP was chosen because its history is one of tolerance and respect for diversity which is especially relevant for today’s world and Pakistan.

“The book and photo exhibits document the AFCP’s cultural heritage projects throughout Pakistan and celebrates the cooperation between our two countries to preserve Pakistan’s culture and heritage for future generations,” he said.

Mann Singh Haveli in Rohtas Fort.
Mann Singh Haveli in Rohtas Fort.

At the exhibition, guests which included architects, archaeologists, artists and students were presented with copies of the book containing stunning photographs of the 18 sites where conservation work was carried out by the AFCP, from Peshawar and Taxila in the North to Uch Sharif, Multan and now Makli in the South.

The photographs by Imran Babur are accompanied by poignant quotes by Sufi poets and information about the historical importance of each site.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2015

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