A “War Rug” of a different genre


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.

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