Wild Frontiers' Anna, Natalie and Nardia ventured into London's Granary Square to view 'Silk Road: A Living History', an outdoor exhibition by photographer Christopher Wilton-Steer and the Aga Khan Foundation. The event is supported by Wild Frontiers, who arranged much of Christopher's trip along the Silk Road. Nardia writes.......
After whiling away a few hours at the Silk Road: A Living History outdoor photography exhibition last week with a couple of my Wild Frontiers gal pals, I had a spring back in my step – inspired not only by the stunning images but just hanging out in the sunshine with Anna and Natalie chatting about all things travel.
Natalie messaged later saying, ‘it was just lovely to get back out and enjoy what we do’.
Too true. The larger-than-life photographs, all but one taken in Wild Frontiers destinations, were a heartfelt reminder of just some of the stunning countries we visit as a travel company and the communities we meet along the way, leaving us with an overwhelming desire to return to these much-loved places and people.
Responsible for this extraordinary exhibition, in London’s Kings Cross, is photographer Christopher Wilton-Steer and the Aga Khan Foundation, with the support of Wild Frontiers, who together share the wonders of a 40,000km-long journey along the world’s oldest trading route.
“When we fly somewhere, we arrive at the destination and all aspects of life are different. By traveling over land, I hoped to understand more about the similarities between different cultures and learn more about what connects us.” - Christopher Wilton-Steer
The exhibition weaves along branches of the Old Silk Road, taking us from the trading route's origins in China through Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey and Egypt, and finally on to the Balkans and Italy, all the while highlighting some of the work of the Aga Khan Foundation and its community initiatives in these areas.
The Aga Khan Foundation has worked in some of the most remote parts of Asia and Africa for over 50 years, partnering with communities for sustainable development across areas of agriculture and food security, education, early years, health and nutrition and economic inclusion. Emphasis is placed on investing in human potential, expanding opportunity and improving the overall quality of life for these communities.
Wild Frontiers visits and supports some of the Aga Khan Foundation initiatives, including the Khaplu Palace, in the Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, which stands proud on one of the imageboards.
Built in 1840, Khaplu Palace is the finest surviving example of a royal residence in the region. By the early 2000s, the palace had fallen into disrepair with livestock living in some of the rooms. Working alongside local government, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (an arm of the foundation) began restoration work in 2005 and the palace re-opened as a museum and heritage hotel in 2011. The restoration of the palace created dozens of jobs in the hospitality sector and has helped open the area to tourism, not to mention the work itself receiving numerous awards including a UNESCO Heritage Conservation Award in 2013.
It was also nice to see a familiar face among the portraits – a local character, with the most amazing moustache, that we often run into when travelling through Pakistan’s Hunza Valley.
As time passes, we are more eager than ever to start reconnecting with the places and people who have been constantly in our thoughts throughout the pandemic. We have offered communities support where we could through the Wild Frontiers Foundation, but there will be nothing better than hitting the road again and working together with our partners near and far in the recovery process.
In the meantime, small glimpses through exhibitions like this on home soil allow us a little time to escape, re-energise and be inspired to carry on to ‘do what we do’.
And the good news is, the exhibition is being extended until the end of September with a move just around the corner from Granary Square to Lewis Cubitt Square, in King’s Cross.
Wild Frontiers was pleased to be able to support photographer Christopher Wilton-Steer with travel advice during his epic Silk Road journey in 2019, and we thank him for the acknowledgement at the exhibition.