Archive for November, 2006

a painted ‘war rug’

November 3, 2006


Sydney artist Michael Fitzjames is currently exhibiting this painting (“The figure in the carpet 5”, 2006, oil on canvas, 86 x 138 cm) at his exhibition at Australian Galleries Painting and Sculpture, Melbourne. Yes, this is a coincidence. Until he visited our blog, Michael had only see S11 “war rugs”. Michael is, coincidentally, also Australia’s greatest black and white artist – see his work for the Australian Financial Review and The Sydney Morning Herald

Who is speaking?

November 3, 2006

Whereas the position of the author of “September 11” rugs (such as this one from the Rugs of War catalogue) is always ambiguous …

Plate 13 - war on terror


… unfortunately – for whatever reason – this butane lighter seems clearly celebratory. It’s for sale on eBay.

The vendor says it was purchased in Afghanistan during a tour of duty in the US Army; it has attracted bids of over $200 US.

UPDATED TO ADD: After a spirited bidding war, the lighter ended up fetching US$797. As is not unheard of on eBay, the same vendor is now offering another “guaranteed one of a kind lighter” for sale. Thanks to our friend Max Allen for the tip-off, and also for the link to Wikipedia’s entry on Asadabad, which says:

Asadabad has been the scene of a number of incidents since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began. U.S. forces set up a provincial reconstruction team there in February 2004. The birth place of Sayeed jamal-udin Afghani.

Asadabad is one of the few Afghan cities still run openly by the Taliban. The Taliban rulers of Asadbad passed laws during the reign of the Taliban in Kabul saying that as long as they are in office they cannot be arrested for crimes of any kind. This arrangement is made possible by the mayor’s tribal relations to Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

Due to the proximity of the Afghanistan/ Pakistan border, Asadabad deals with a fairly large amount of trade goods destined for other places.

A FURTHER UPDATE: the latter auction received two bids of US$25, failing to meet the vendor’s reserve.

Artist profile of Michgan Hozain from ‘Weavings of War’

November 3, 2006

In the catalogue to the exhibition curated by Ariel Zeitlin Cooke “Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory” (written with Marsha MacDowell and available here) is referenced an artist profile of Michgan Hozain, a woman of Hazara origin who teaches weaving and monitors rug quality at a not-for-profit women’s centre in Kabul. The profile is drawn from video interviews conducted by artist and Professor Michael Schnorr in Afghanistan in early 2004.

Michgan Hozain and her son.  Photograph by Michael Schnorr.

Caption: “Like most Afghan weavers, Michgan has a loom at home where she can attend to her son and other domestic duties while she weaves. Photo by Michael Schnorr.”

This account confirms that many men learnt weaving in refugee camps. Michgan’s husband, Merza, had been a weaver before he lived in a Peshawar camp, where (suggests Ariel) it may be that Merza learnt the Turkmen-style knot technique he subsequently taught Michgan. The profile continues:

Some weavers of Afghan war rugs, including Michgan’s own aunts, seem to be expressing in their work their own memories of war and will tell you the exact incidents they are depicting: “This is when the mosque in my village was destroyed.” Michgan, however, says she weaves her war rugs “because they will sell”. When she had been weaving for a few years, her family discovered that war rugs would fetch more money in the marketplace, and so her husband designed a few for them to make, with excellent results: “We sold the [war] rugs in the bazaar to the people, commanders, for example, who were coming from foreign coutnries at that time.” she recalls. The centre where Michgan works keeps a similar focus on profits: they churn out a certain number of war rugs every year, buying them from the women who participate on a commissioned or semi-comissioned basis. Merza continues to weave alongside his wife but says he is trying to find more lucrative work.”

One of Michgan's rugs. Photograph by Martha Cooper.

Caption: “Rug. Michgan Hozain (Hazara), Afghanistan, 2004, Wool and cotton, 16 x 27 inches. Collection of City Lore. Photo by Martha Cooper. “9/11″ rugs appeared a few months after the World Trade Center was destroyed in 2001. Some Americans have speculated that Afghan weavers were rejoicing at the disaster but Hozain says she weaves them for sale because she finds a market for them.”

“Neither Hozain wants their son to learn to weave:”We want him to go to school and live a better life than us,” says Michgan. In fact, she informs us, “Whenever somebody comes to visit the carpets in our home or our centre we explain to them ‘Send your daughters to be educated [to do something] besides carpet-weaving.’ It is our message to them.”

We thank Ariel Zeitlin Cooke for her permission to reproduce this material.