Archive for the ‘Dealers in war rugs’ Category

Anti-Soviet Social Realism

January 7, 2013

Over at Iconophilia you’ll find some work-in-progress on one of the most atypical war rugs we’ve seen. Of course there are so many different modes of the war rug, none of them are typical.

Jumping to conclusions…

July 7, 2011

Here’s a recent news item on Sydney television. Click here to watch it. See how quickly viewers assume the worst. Then read my “How to Read a War Carpet” at BagNews Notes.

If you’re still among those who find the S11 carpets offensive, how do you rank the kind of postcards you can buy at the ISAF base at Kandahar?

And here’s a subsequent review of the program on Crikey.

The Oriental Rug Society

April 15, 2011

On Wednesday 13th April the Oriental Rug Society of NSW  and the Asian Arts Society of Australia invited Nigel Lendon to present a lecture entitled What? Who? for Whom? and Why? The War Rugs of Afghanistan at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Here Nigel is shown speaking about one of his favourite examples – which demonstrates the diversity of artefacts which can be included in the genre. On screen is a saddle bag collected in Kunduz by the pioneering German collector Hans Werner Mohm. After the lecture several members of the Society brought along examples of different kinds of war rugs, which led to a lively discussion of form and content. Most remarkable were the two precursor rugs owned by the Cadry Family, which celebrate the Turkish defeat of the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli.

Here is the extremely fine silk rug which depicts the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Cannakkale (Gallipoli) Peninsula from (then) an impossible aerial perspective. This example is one of two known to exist, the other being one of the treasures of the national collection in Istanbul. As well as this modernist aerial viewpoint, there are two almost-photographic cartouches which are montaged into the scene, which depict the landscapes of the battlefield. The elaborate calligraphy reveals that this rug was made for presentation to Enver Pasha. Reproductions of both these carpets are to be found in the catalogue of the exhibition mounted by the late Jaques Cadry Woven History: Stories in Carpets which was held at the State Library of New South Wales (1990). This catalogue is also one of the first such publications to include illustrations of war rugs.

buying a “gun” rug on Chicken St

July 9, 2010

Tatiana Divens alerted us to this video of Rachel Maddow visiting Chicken Street in Kabul and buying a “gun” rug for $20. It was actually one of the “defeat of the Soviets” rugs first mass-produced in the 1990s, which were still being mass-reproduced (below see the warp being separated and trimmed) in 2007, and now made and dated 2010. Maddow’s the perfect exponent of the market for “tourist art” or “souvenir art”, or now, “carry-on art”…

as seen in Freiburg

June 8, 2010

Here’s a beautiful and unusual carpet from the collection of Mr Mahmoud Fahartyr. Alas, badly infested with moths…

goat’s hair selvedge theory

April 13, 2009

anderson-snakeOne of the folk tales which is told by dealers as a means to identify an “authentic” Baluch carpet – which since 1980 is a questionable concept anyway – is that a coarse goat’s hair selvedge is said to prevent scorpions from wandering onto a carpet. Well, maybe, but it also works for snakes! Here’s a photograph from a 1994 issue of Hali where herpetologist and Baluch authority Jerry Anderson proves his theory! But did anyone ask: what’s to stop them creeping and crawling on to the carpet from the fringe ends? I’m sure the dealer would have an answer… Read the whole Tom Cole interview on his site here

HALI: We have heard that during the recent troubles the Baluch peoples in northern Afghanistan were either killed or driven out by the local population, who resented them. Who are they?
JA: They are a mixture of Baluch and Arabs, and also Lokharis, who do not weave piled rugs but instead make those dark, dark kilims which often have tufts of wool inserted on the flatweave, and are woven in two pieces and joined in the centre. There are also Brahuis in that area who are called Baluch. There is a book
written by a Russian that tells of the whole distribution of the Brahuis in Khorasan, Transcaspia, the Bukhara area and the Mazar-i-Sharif area. So many different peoples are called Baluch, or call themselves Baluch. In Farsi, the word means beggar. It also has the sense of nakedness, a person living in a tent and clothed in rags. Now the word -luch means a parasitic type of person. Ba means ‘from’ or ‘of’, so the name Baluch has bad connotations in Farsi… [The] Sistani tribal lifestyle was essentially intact until about 1980, nomads moving around in the same locales as they had for centuries. But then the Sarbandi and many other Sistanis were displaced during the Islamic Revolution.

“Victory” rug with a twist

January 14, 2008


Here’s a rug from Kevin Sudeith’s collection (see which is a ‘victory’ rug with a twist. I confess I didn’t look at it very closely the first time around. It follows the (very) familiar format of the ‘Victory over the Soviets’ carpets which first appeared in the early 90s and which depicts the Soviet forces heading home along the highway that leads from the Salang Pass, across the “Friendship Bridge”, through Termez, and home…

But what is the 2002 date doing there? As Kevin notes, when you translate the text in Farsi you will find that what normally reads: “The Soviet forces are exiting Afghanistan” reads “The al-Qaeda forces are exiting Afghanistan”. This shows how quickly antecedent designs and motifs of tourist art can be recycled to catch a potential market, that is, the new population of ISAF and NATO forces which began to arrive in Afghanistan from 2002 onwards.

Kevin has many variants of this style on his site, which are worth careful examination to see these kinds of variations. For example, some include the dates of both the Saur revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, plus texts which (optimistically) read “international terrorists got wiped off [overthrown] from entire Afghanistan”.

a post-postmodern map of the world

July 3, 2007


Here’s an example of a “map of the world” rug where there’s no argument about the date! Except maybe it’s a little too prominent! See our earlier controversy about the attribution of dates to war rugs. In the 1980s and 90s many of the most interesting war rugs (and map rugs) were imported to London by the late Reuben and his son Yuda Ambalo. By Yuda’s account this example was the only map-of-the-world rug they actually commissioned (it’s huge, 3m x 5m) and when it arrived in London it was a great disappointment. Understandably. Beautifully made, but aesthetically morbid. The text in Farsi reads: “ordered by Ambalo, London, 1996”.

Bagram Bazaar

December 21, 2006

Bagram Air Base is a former Soviet airbase about 50 km north of Kabul. It is home to US and other Allied Military personnel and civilians and has also been used as the major prison facility for people detained by the US Military.

This site features the following photos and description:

The weekly bazaar at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Local Afghan merchants gather just outside the base to sell everything from clothes to trinkets to guns to the large multinational military population stationed there. The bazaar, which brings a touch of Afghan culture to the military members, also brings a significant amount of money to the local economy.

Rug at Bagram Base Market

US soldier carrying rug

War rugs on sale in Chicken Street, Kabul

October 17, 2006

Nasser Palangi is an Iranian artist who lives in Canberra. Recently returned from travelling, he’s shared these images taken in September 2006 on Kabul’s famous “Chicken Street” – our thanks to Nasser for allowing us to post them here.

Shop door with rugs

War rugs for sale on Chicken Street; these depict the defeat of the Soviet army.

Hanging map rug

A pictorial/map rug hanging outside a Chicken Street shop.

Boy outside shop

A small boy lounges beneath a “September 11” rug at a Chicken Street shopfront.