Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soldier for all Times

When the Mythic Warrior of Koh Ker was created in the 10th century, the artist may not have imagined the future battles that the figure would encounter. A statue of a warrior makes for apt imagery in the challenges of cultural security.
A year after Cambodian authorities requested that Sotheby’s halt the sale of the statue, the story of the warrior’s path unfolds. According to a recent article in The New York Times, archaeologists contend that clues suggest that the statue “was plundered in the 1970s amid the chaos of power struggle and genocide, when the Khmer Rouge ravaged Cambodia, and looters hacked their way into long-inaccessible temples, pillaged priceless antiquities and sold them to Thai and Western collectors.”
Reportedly the statue was acquired in 1975 by a “noble European lady” in good faith. Now the warrior statue is embroiled in a modern-day battle for cultural patrimony. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security stands at the ready to investigate, while the Cambodian government weighs options.
Perhaps a private purchase will result in a donation as a means of repatriation. In such a case, the soldier may unwittingly become a mercenary, who considers payment along with patriotism.

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