The Research Project
In Nepal, a unique historical site, which effortlessly fulfils all of the necessary criteria to become a World Heritage site, is threatening to fall into decay. We are referring here to the Mentsun Lhakhang in the Mustang district, as yet the oldest, cave temple in the country. Up to now, no one has felt any responsibility for the historical site. On the contrary, for centuries the temple has been left untended and exposed, defenceless, to the elements. Sections of the temple’s roof are now so damaged that rain and snow find their way into the edifice. As a result, some of the wall paintings, which are to be found inside the temple, stylistically unparalleled examples in Nepal, have been greatly affected if not already destroyed.
The cultural site had a stroke of luck, when Dzongsar Ngari Thingo Rinpoche and the art historian and conserver Susanne von der Heide stumbled across the decaying site by pure chance during one of their student travelling trips across the country. Convinced of the building’s significance, they decided without hesitation to set about coordinating a rescue effort for the temple. The locals, who had looked after the temple up that point, had even asked them to do so. The two experts assembled a team of villagers and Nepalese students from the newly-introduced degree program “Conservation” and trained them in conservation and restoration techniques with the help of two experts – French and Nepalese expert. The aim: The restoration of the roof and subsequently of the early-Buddhist wall paintings underneath it. Viewed in a wider context, the expedition is also characterized by a ‘help others to help themselves’ philosophy, so that in the future even irrecoverable cultural assets can be protected too.
With the assistance of a local film crew, Susanne von der Heide filmed the restoration project in the oldest Buddhist temple in the Himalayas.
Dzongsar Ngari Thingo Rinpoche (†2008)Location
Dr Susanne von der Heide
District Mustang (Nepal)