For many art historians, cultural experts and heritage activists, April of this year has been a remarkable month. After nearly 40 years of his disappearance, the statue of Laxmi Narayan, a major stolen object, has been returned to Nepal.
Stolen in 1984, the 800-year-old statue was originally kept in the Narayan Temple of Patko Tole in Patan. Locals revere the statue as their protective deity, and in 1993, a few years after the statue was stolen, locals made a replica to continue worshiping the deity. The original statue of Laxmi Narayan was seen at the Dallas Museum of Art, which has been “exhibiting” it since 2007.
It was only after the incredible efforts of many journalists, diplomats and heritage activists that the statue was eventually repatriated. Lost Arts of Nepal, a Facebook page, played a vital role in the recovery of the statue by informing people and authorities of the lost statue and its location.
Founded in 2015, the Facebook page is dedicated to informing people of the location of stolen items in Nepal.
According to the page administrator, who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, the reason for starting the page was very simple.
“As a person who has always had a keen interest in Nepalese art and its history, over the past 20 years I have recorded photographs and information about our gods and goddesses placed in foreign museums. The museums gave me access to images that could have been inaccessible to us in Nepal. During the process, I kept finding so much information that I couldn’t keep up with it, ”says the administrator. “I realized that the extent of the loss of our heritage is much more than what is known or published. So I decided to create a platform that could foster conversations around Nepal’s lost heirlooms and educate as many people as possible about the stolen artefacts.
And what could have been the best platform besides Facebook which is the most popular and used social media app in Nepal.
“In 2015, I started posting details of lost artifacts and their current locations on Facebook so that the government, the academic community, and even the general public can be aware of our lost heritage beyond the current boundaries of the world. information, ”said the administrator, who has now set up similar accounts on Instagram and Twitter.
As there wasn’t a single social media page dedicated to raising awareness among the general public about the stolen artefacts from Nepal that are currently ‘on display’ by international museums, it didn’t take long for people to notice the page. Facebook of Lost Arts of Nepal. People immediately appreciated the page’s effort and the posts started garnering positive responses from the general public.
For the admin of the page, this has been a huge responsibility and a rigorous undertaking from day one to ensure that the information released about the artifacts, their history, how they were stolen and where they are now is credible. .
“In general, whenever I come across an artifact of interest, I will try to match the records I have based on my 20 years of visits to foreign museums. Likewise, old photographic records are also my main source of information. I am also referring to books and articles published by researchers and academics from previous generations, ”explains the administrator.
Currently, the Facebook page has nearly 15,000 likes. The articles on the page mainly contain images of artifacts, before and after they were stolen, and relevant information about where the works of art are located. Likewise, the administrator also manages a public group on Facebook called People for the Lost Arts of Nepal, where anyone can contribute and share information about stolen items in Nepal.
From works of art like tudales, paintings, sculptures and idols, some of which even date back to the 10th century, the page actively tracks down and raises awareness of stolen items over the past six years. Last month, the page played a major role in the cancellation of an auction of five gilded bronze statues in France. The statues were stolen from Taleju Temple in Patan. The Lost Arts of Nepal page was the one that found out where the statues were located.
Seeing the real impact of the information disseminated by the Facebook page provides enormous motivation to continue the work, explains the administrator.
“It’s encouraging to see how our efforts are making people aware of their heritage. Plus, seeing the increasing media coverage of the artifacts has been a rewarding experience, ”said the administrator.
The Facebook page also played a role in helping repatriate several idols, including Uma Maheswora from Tangal Hiti and Dhulikhel, Standing Buddha from Yatkha, Sridhara Vishnu from Kumbeswore by posting articles about these stolen statues and drawing the attention of the authorities concerned. .
However, according to the administrator, several other artifacts kept in private collections and international museums are due to be returned, and the administrator also used the page to let people know about these artifacts.
“Yes, we should be grateful to museums for preserving our artefacts and making us aware of their value and importance. People don’t like things until they are lost. Western museums have acted as custodians of many of our artifacts for years, but now we want to get them back, ”says the administrator. “What foreign museums and private collectors need to understand is that our gods are not for sale. Our gods are not simple objects of decoration or curiosity. They represent our faith. Our gods must return home.
And for the stolen artifacts to come back, the administrator believes the government has a huge role to play.
“To effectively and efficiently repatriate stolen objects, the government should establish a dedicated unit with members of the Department of Archeology, law enforcement agencies, foreign affairs, academics and heritage curators. “said the administrator.
Although the repatriation of stolen items is very important, the administrator believes that it is equally important to focus on restoring the items in the country.
“Our government should have effective plans and policies regarding the repatriation and return of stolen items. The State should be able to convince that the repatriated objects will be taken care of. Then, all private collectors will also be willing to donate or return the artefacts, ”explains the administrator.