about rugsofwar

The Rugs of War

The Rugs of War is a project which investigates the history, iconography, production and distribution of “the war carpet”. The traditional knotted rugs and carpets made by the semi-nomadic peoples of Afghanistan are famous for their distinctive designs, their rich palette and the quality of their construction and materials, which characteristically feature traditional patterns and motifs.

The “war rug” is an evolution of these carpets which has occurred through the inclusion of militaria and other references to the experience of war and conflict in the region. These significant changes became apparent almost immediately after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when rug-makers began incorporating complex imagery of war planes, helicopters, machine guns, maps and texts into their designs. This was accelerated by the exodus of nearly four million people into both Iran and Pakistan.

The Rugs of War blog is a research project being conducted by Nigel Lendon (School of Art) and Tim Bonyhady (Faculty of Law) at the Australian National University. This project is supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant.

The aim of this project is to research, analyse, theorise, and interpret the emergence of the new genre of war art produced by the semi-nomadic and diasporic peoples of Afghanistan. From this study the authors will produce and disseminate new knowledge on a topic of considerable socio-political immediacy and regional relevance. From hitherto unresearched collections, the study will uniquely provide insights into the attitudes, values and creativity of a people subjected to the devastating effects of war and a conflict of continuing global significance. The study is taking place through collection research, archival research, iconographic analysis and interviews with key participants in the production, dissemination, and collection of these works, and will result in a monograph, journal articles, a web-based interactive database, and related curatorial strategies.

The project has its origins in two exhibitions held in Canberra and Adelaide in 2003 and 2004, curated by Nigel Lendon and Tim Bonyhady. The exhibition catalogue also featured an essay by Jasleen Dhamija. In the Essays category and links below you will find the original essays, bibliography, and images from The Rugs of War catalogue, in addition to the new data and its interpretations generated by this project.

We have included a description of the goals of the project, and general information about how to navigate the site is here.

Readers are invited to contribute by submitting (jpeg) images and related information and/or commentary to the Contributors’ Gallery or other categories directly or by email.

Contributors should be aware of our editorial and comments policies.

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