27 May Notice 27th May 2020
Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente
ISMEO would like to convey our deep condolences to the family of Akhtar Munir. Akhtar Munir (also known as Tota) was born in Panr in 1949 to a family of humble origins. He has always been animated by an exceptional intellectual spirit. After completing primary school in the Swat State of the Miangul dynasty, he continued his self-taught cultural education. At the age of seven he impressed at Butkara I in the excavation of Domenico Faccenna, which was being opened in an area right between his school and his father’s house. Adopted by the Italian Mission as a mascot, he soon stood out for his ability to recognize and reunite fragments of ancient sculptures, working on this, after school, together with Francesca Bonardi Tucci. It was thanks to Giuseppe Tucci that he turned out to be an intrepid explorer of mountains and steps; Domenico Faccenna and Maurizio Taddei then appreciated his exceptional abilities in digging techniques, and Francesca Callori of Vignale introduced him to the secrets of restoration.In 1967 – he was about 15 years old – he began working with Giorgio Stacul in Ghalegai, starting a digging partnership in Chitral, Badakshan, Kohistan, until the arrival of Sebastiano Tusa and Pierfrancesco Callieri, the two Italians who can be counted among Tota’s younger friends. With the succession of scholarly generations, together with Massimo Vidale and Luca M. Olivieri Tota he continued his explorations from Baltistan to Swat and the Indus, mainly active on rock art and in excavations in Barikot. With younger restorers, such as Livia Alberti and Fabio Colombo, and old friends like Francesco Martore he was able to complete the restoration of Gumbat, Saidu Sharif I, the great Buddha and the Bodhisattva C93 of Jahanabad. In February 2011, he saved himself from a Taliban suicide attack in the Mingora bazaar, and since then he was carrying with him the shrapnel marks all
over his body. Travelling with Tota by car meant constantly meeting some of his great friends, given his past as a truck driver (in a “rebel” phase of his youth, when he temporarily left the Italian Mission), whether he was in Gilgit or D.I. Khan.
Thanks to Matteo de Chiara we recently discovered that Tota was also a great connoisseur of Dardic folklore, folklore that can still be found in the stories of the Pashtun, rich in fairies, elementary beings, etc.; he was also an excellent herbalist and knew the art of healing from the venom of scorpions and snakes.
We are certain that his friends from so many different countries will long regret him.