Archive for September, 2005

More on the Realist War Rug…

September 18, 2005

Josephine Jasperse has send more images of details of this fine silk rug from her collection, including this photograph of the reverse side.

She interprets it as showing the destruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, in 1989.

Kevin Sudeith has done some more research and suggests the architectural structure on the right side of Josephine’s rug is the Royal Palace in Kabul, as seen here.

Kevin refers us to this quote from Gordon Sharpless’ account in Tales of Asia:

We continued to Darulaman. This area was designed in 1923 by King Amanullah with the intention to have it the seat of the nation’s government. Included is (was) a large palace that must have been something to behold prior to the war. It is now almost completely destroyed. It is possible to walk around inside, but do so carefully. It’s pure rubble. Across the street from the palace is the still-closed Kabul Museum… heavily destroyed, apparently there is little left to put on display anyway.

Kevin adds that the arch on the left side of the field is the Pargham Lake Arch.

Here are some more details of the vignettes in the border areas:

Kevin further suggests the flag held by the horseman on the bottom left is a Taliban flag – see this image from Wikipedia – but I’m not so sure the image is clear enough to draw this conclusion.

Is there enough evidence to attribute a political position to this image? In a recent email, Kevin continues:

The Soviet tanks and the Royal Palace burning together suggests a pro-taliban political message… [however the use of] figuration is very anti-taliban-esque, so perhaps [this is] a Pakistani or Persian production?

We will need to see more examples of this genre to draw further conclusions.

From our outsider vantage point, this rug further complicates our questions about the design process – of both this rug, and by implication, the more traditional forms of the “war rug”. The Realist rug suggests the cartoon owes a lot to photographic sources, but that remains to be seen.

In general, we ask: who is the author? What is the design process? How are the original cartoons drawn up? Are rugs copied from one to the other? If rugs are copied pixel-by-pixel from the backs of other rugs, this would explain how frequently texts and even the map of Aghanistan appears in mirror-image on the front of the rug – which is not a problem for traditional imagery which uses bilateral symmetry in one or both axes.

The other significant question raised by the Realist Rug is the question of style. if it weren’t so overtly anti-Soviet, you would assume the artist/designer was trained in Moscow (or elsewhere in the former Soviet Union) in the style of Soviet Socialist Realism. All of the pictorial devices suggest someone trained within the Western/Soviet tradition – or at least someone visually adept and aware of the inheritance of the nineteenth century schools of Romanticism and Realism. Add to this the structures and devices of collage and montage, and only the material qualities of the rug identify it with the cultural context of Afghanistan and its neighbours. I’m thinking out loud here – but that’s the nature of the blog – and this rug raises exciting questions which take us outside of the ethnographic character of orthodox discussions of rug styles and attribution.

More details of the central parts of this rug may be found at this earlier post.

Comments please…

New Khyber Pass variant

September 14, 2005


Graham Gower contributed this image from his collection some time ago, it was his first, collected in 2001.  By comparison with the two examples we have previously posted, we can identify the subject matter as a representation of the Khyber Pass. The central motif is an abstraction of the map of Afghanistan. Graham dates this as late 1990s, size 4ft 9 inches x 2ft 11 inches.


P.S. Readers may post a comment (by following the “No Comments” or “Comments” link below, or you may communicate or send .jpeg images by email, from which I can insert or load as posts…

Rostam and Akvan

September 9, 2005

Nasser Palangi (an Iranian artist living in Canberra) has an extensive collection of early lithographs, and has sent us some images to fill out our earlier posts which help locate the iconography of this rug, from the Peter Bellas collection in Brisbane, Plate 1 in The Rugs of War catalogue.

Compare with these 19th century lithographic illustrations to find the origins of this reconfigured story – now located in a field of elements signifying the contemporary conflict.

Other posts and examples are here; click on the post titles to open the images.


September 9, 2005

Nasser Palangi, (an Iranian artist living in Canberra), has also given me a translation of the text on the image of the Leyli and Majnun rug. The updated posts are here; click on post titles to see the images.

A “War Rug” of a different genre

September 2, 2005

Josephine Jasperse sent these images of a very fine silk rug from her collection. She interprets it as showing the destruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul, in 1989. However there are many other elements which are open to interpretation.

The size of the rug is approximately 120×170 cm. It is made from silk and very finely knotted. The story Josephine gained from its Afghan owner was that when the Russians came in they destroyed the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, the big building on the rug. She sees it as a victory rug, showing the tanks of the Russian army are in flames, the mujahideen reconquering Kabul. On the borders can be seen images of the fighting in the country side.

She tells me she specially asked the Afghan owner about its design, because she thought the rug looked like a computer drawing. He was very certain about the fact that this rug is made without a drawing, pointing to the many ‘mistakes’ in the rug. This weaver started on the left lower edge and built up the scenery, without a drawing. Josephine assumes the rug was made in Kabul, 1988 -1989 just before the Russian army left the country.

How do we interpret the imagery? Is it an image of defiance, or victory, and for whom was it made? What kind of artists existed who worked in this “western” mode of representation? Who do the figures represent?

The tanks appear to be on fire, and between them is a figure wielding his Kalashnikov, and behind the figure with the flag is an arch – is it and the other buildings identifiable?

And who are the horsemen in the framing imagery?

Thanks Josephine – I’m hoping you will send more images of the details?

Updated to add: Thanks to Josephine for the further images she sent, which are discussed here.