It felt like an omen. As people filed out of the state musical theater in Nukus, Uzbekistan, after celebrations to mark the centenary of the late founder of the city’s remarkable avant-garde art museum, rain began to fall.
One notable absence at those September 4 festivities was the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art’s director, 59-year-old Marinika Babanazarova, who was facing interrogation for a third successive day in Tashkent, 800 kilometers away, according to people familiar with the situation. That elephant in the room was tacitly acknowledged by one of the foreign guests present — the UNESCO representative in Uzbekistan, Krista Pikkat.
“On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to all those people who have contributed to keeping this legacy alive,” Pikkat said. “It is first and foremost, of course, the people working at the museum, who have worked hard to keep the collection intact.”
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Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska is a freelance journalist who covers arts and culture in Central Asia.