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.
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.”
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.