Archive for the ‘Prayer Rugs’ Category

the anonymous art conundrum

December 13, 2011

Wouldn’t you love to know who made this? But as Max Allen has often commented, there’s more that we don’t know than what we do know about the war rug genre. There are many different categories of cartographic images made during the era of the war carpet, and accurate representations of the map of Afghanistan are first seen in war carpets from the mid-1980s. And there were many other forms of representation of the map of Afghanistan in circulation in Afghanistan in the pre-war era. Maps like this one – with schematic rather than cartographic forms – appear to derive from the western provinces of Afghanistan, and some are dated 1989, 1990, and 1991. I have seen nine examples like this (plus others at a larger scale) and what is striking about them is that they are all clearly by different makers – despite the fact that the basic format (naming the different provinces of Afghanistan, inserting familiar symbols, war references, and orienting the East upwards) is the same in each example. And so while this group are anonymous (in the Western sense) they have a communal character that is very compelling. Afghan carpets are commissioned, designed, made and distributed under a distinctive schema of collective agency, and so to recognise this as a “work of art” we will need to rethink our Western convention of a work of art having a unique author… Maybe the nine constitute the one work? In the sense of communal authorship? Watch this space!

Australia’s Afghan history: a sorry tale

August 2, 2007

Here’s the display in the National Museum of Australia.




Some would argue that the White Australia Policy, officially laid to rest in the 1970s, has emerged again in the racially biased attitudes towards refugees and ethnic profiling in the last two decades. Mahomet Allum ran out of time…

More mysteries

April 14, 2007

Here is a set of images from three variations on a theme we’re still finding hard to interpret. Some elements are clear: the four-barrel anti-aircraft gun appears like the fingers of a hand in the bootom register. In the center is a tank. At the top is the form I call the “ragged mihrab” which also appears in different contexts in other rugs, discussed at length, with other examples, here. So, from the mihrab form, perhaps this rug can also be categorised as a prayer rug. Noteworthy also is the small element at the bottom right of the rug where an element penetrates the frame and intrudes into the border design. Can any readers shed further light on any of these mysteries?






New York exhibition opening: “Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory”

September 17, 2006

Readers in the New York area will be interested to know that the exhibition “Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory” is showing at The Puffin Room, 435 Broome Street, New York, until mid October. The exhibition will tour throughout the US until 2008 – a list of locations can be found by scrolling down here and the excellent catalogue is available online.


Kevin Sudeith ( and Curator Ariel Zeitlin Cooke in the exhibition.

Ariel writes:

the exhibition features a dazzling display of war textiles–Afghan war rugs, Hmong story cloths, Chilean and Peruvian arpilleras and South African memory cloths, all of which bear witness to the artists’ experience of modern warfare. This is a wonderful moment for me, as I have worked on the project for more than 15 years.

The exhibition has been reviewed in the online version of Hali magazine.

There are some photographs from the exhibition opening with distinguished guest Hmong story cloth artist Pang Xiong Sirirasathuk Sikounat at Kevin Sudeith’s blog.

One of the most striking war rugs (among many of interest) was the prayer rug from the collection of Bruce Baganz. You can find other images of the exhibition pieces on Kevin’s blog…