A search through Parsons (Parsons, R.D., Oriental Rugs, Volume 3, The Carpets of Afghanistan, 1990) reveals this beautiful “old” Baluch rug (plate 67a, a “Kizilayak prayer rug from an area southwest of Herat”).
This rug, plus three other less complex examples (plates 44, 57, 90), are direct precursors to the images of “mosques under threat” posted in the past few weeks. They reveal how the rug designer freely refers to the architectural details of the mosque to construct the directional structures of a prayer rug. While this may begin by referring to some specific mosque, clearly the artist may elaborate and emphasise all those elements which confirm the characteristics of this subject as a sacred site.
The architecture allows figuration without the representation of the human form. That is, the motifs such as the multiple towers and repeats of archways, doors and gardens all reinforce and confirm the characteristics which connote a sacred space – a space therefore imaginatively occupied by the Muslim devotee, wherever he may be.
Thus, we could argue, the images of mosques under threat, or invaded, or defiled (such as those listed here) convey the reality of war in a doubly transgressive manner, with religious as well as a political dimensions.
I’d appreciate any further references to examples of mosque images, both from the 1980s onward, and to precedents such as this.
P.S. Readers may post a comment, or communicate or send .jpeg images by email, from which I can insert load as posts…