This is an example of a “war rug” adopting a pre-existing set of form-structures or motifs and replacing the previous (traditional) gazelle image with an image of a helicopter. There’s no irony intended here – there can’t be any greater contrast between the symbolism of the elegant motif of nature and innocence suggested by the gazelle with the lumbering alien threat represented by the helicopter.
And here is an image of the helicopter version, from the collection of Joyce C. Ware; it’s currently touring with the exhibition Weavings of War. We’ve brightened the image a little to make the comparison easier:
Joyce Ware’s helicopter rug and a gazelle rug similar to Kevin Sudeith’s were exhibited by our friend former Army Ordnance Officer Tatiana Divens in the 1993 exhibition she mounted with George O’Bannon (discussed here).
In the exhibition catalogue, Tatiana wondered whether the helicopter shown was one known as the Hind, the Soviet Mi-24. (That Wikipedia etnry tells us “the Soviet pilots called the aircraft ‘letayushiy tank’ or flying tank”; it also tells us that it was “a large combat helicopter gunship and low-capacity troop transport operated from 1976 by the Soviet Air Force, its successors, and over thirty other nations.”)
Given the parallels between the rugs, it’s interesting that that Mi-24 was known as a Hind, a female deer. We found out that the name is what’s called a “NATO reporting name”, titles created by NATO to describe Soviet (and Chinese) military equipment when the real name might be unknown; the reporting names used for helicopters started with the letter H.
However, we wonder whether the helicopter in the rug might actually be the Mi-26, the Halo, which became operational in 1983. The Halo is a heavy cargo transport, and much bigger than the Hind- 40 metres long as opposed to 17.5 metres, and carrying 80 troops to the Hind’s 8. It even seems to have the “smile” that Tatiana noted in her catalogue description. Compare this image of the Mi-24 Hind:
and the Mi-26 Halo:
with the detail from the rug:
Two other images from the book Russia’s War in Afghanistan, by Isby D. and Volstand R., 1986:
Mi-8 Hip-C helicopter, DRA Air Force.
A typical scene of ‘Afghan pastoral’: ‘Landscape, with Hip’.
The Mi-8 transport helicopter is on final approach at the Communist outpost of Anawa in the Panjshir Valley in 1983. More recently, with the increased threat from SALs, Soviet helicopters make their approaches in a steep spiral, dropping heat-decoy flares. (Tim Cooper, via Afghanistan).
I guess we’re now favouring the Hip over the Halo over the Hind! This is supported by the argument that the Halo was rarer and later in the Soviet occupation era, maybe post-dating this rug, but we still think the image on the rug looks more Hip than Hind…