In Aug 2022, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York, US, returned two archeological artifacts to Nepal: a 10th-century stone statue and a 13th-century wooden strut. These artifacts had arrived at the Met in the 90s.
This is just one incident of lost and stolen historical, cultural and archeological heirlooms cropping up in personal and museum collections in different parts of the world. Rabindra Puri, Nepali conservationist, and his team are doing their best to return such pieces of Nepali art, history and culture.
Puri has started the project called ‘The Museum of Stolen Art’, which aims to preserve traditional arts, artifacts and monuments of Nepal by raising awareness about lost and stolen artifacts.
“As an initial step, we planned to display the replicas of 50 lost and stone sculptures. To date, we have already made 40 replicas,” he says.
These replicas are displayed at The Heritage Gallery in Toni Hagen House, Bhaktapur. These deities are not for sale, and will be taken to the Museum of Stolen Art in Panauti, Kavre, once the building is completed.
All of these facsimiles were crafted under the leadership of a renowned stone artist Timir Nashan Ojha and his team of 11 Nepali and Indian sculptors.
“The former US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry was very supportive in helping us bring back the statues,” Puri says. “I hope the newly appointed ambassador will continue to show us the similar level of support.”