Petition filed to repatriate ancient Nepali paubha painting from US museum

- Timothy Aryal, Kathmandu

Jan 4, 2019-

A petition has been filed with the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC and the Consulate General of Nepal in New York for repatriation of a centuries-old paubha painting currently housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Responding to a tweet by politician Ujjwal Thapa regarding the Post’s January 2 report on the paubha, the Twitter handle for Hello Sarkar (@Hello_Sarkar), the government’s public complaints portal, responded that a complaint (numbered 01-2019-HHXTAL) had been registered and forwarded to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for appropriate action. 

Krishna Kumar Subedi, consular officer at the New York-based Consulate General of Nepal, said that the office has received the complaint and has furthered the process. 

The Post had carried a report detailing how the Patan Museum was exhibiting a digital copy of a stunning paubha painting, dating back to the late 17th or early 18th century, while the original remained in the United States. The paubha, which shows the pilgrimage route from Patan to Gosaikunda, is believed to have been created in Kathmandu Valley, although when and how it left the country is unclear.

“We are really concerned about the issue. As soon as we received the complaint through Nepal Embassy in Washington, we discussed about it and are now set to send a formal mail to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We are committed towards returning the paubha back,” Subedi said.

A 1970 UNESCO treaty, ‘Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property’ states that “States Parties undertake, at the request of the State Party “of origin”, to take appropriate steps to recover and return any such cultural property imported”. Both the United States and Nepal are signatories to this convention.

When the Post reached out to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation however, Mangala Pradhan, under-secretary at the Culture Division of the ministry, said that she had no idea about any such complaint. “We have not received any complaint about the painting in question thus far,” said Pradhan.

Damodar Gautam, acting director general at the Department of Archaeology, said his department had also not received any complaint or direction from the ministry so far regarding the paubha. 

“We have not forwarded it to the ministries in Nepal, but to the Embassy in Washington and Consulate General,” Krishna Aryal, an official at Hello Sarkar, later clarified.

Published: 04-01-2019 06:29

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