News You Really Need To See: “Afghanistan’s Buddhas Rise Again”

“Afghanistan’s Buddhas Rise Again”

The Atlantic, June 10, 2015

“Residents of Bamiyan got a rare opportunity over the weekend: a chance to once again see giant Buddhas that have been piles of rubble for over a decade. 3-D projection technology has already been used to resurrect dead music legends and pipe busy politicians into campaign rallies, and now it’s been employed to recreate a cultural icon that watched over this valley in Afghanistan for more than 1,500 years.  The two Buddhas of Bamiyan were constructed in the sixth century, at a time when the area was a site of pilgrimage and learning for Buddhists.  Both Buddhas were carved out of sandstone cliffs and stood at well over 100 feet, and at one point painted and gilded.  They managed to withstand the introduction of Islam to the region and the armies of Genghis Khan, but were unable to survive past the first year of the 21st century.  The Taliban destroyed the Buddhas in March 2001. … In the ensuing years, UNESCO officials, Afghan authorities, and local residents have failed to reach a consensus about the best way to address the devastation. … Now a solution, albeit a temporary one, has arrived—and from an unlikely source.  According to Ali Latifi, a Kabul-based journalist for the Los Angeles Times who witnessed the 3-D projections on Saturday and Sunday, the holograms, cast from projectors mounted on scaffolding, were the work of a Chinese couple who are currently traveling the world and filming a documentary.  They had been deeply moved by the statues’ destruction in 2001, and, according to Latifi, decided to undertake the project and add Bamiyan to their itinerary.  Latifi told me that the couple fine-tuned the projections on a mountainside in China and then, after receiving approval from UNESCO and the Afghan government, brought the system to Afghanistan.  The projections were not widely publicized, but over 150 people came to see the spectacle.”

Quickie analysis:  Not perfect, but a really cool substitute nonetheless.  (For a photo of the Bamiyan Buddha projection, see 

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