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War Rug

Curated Submission
Afghanistan - Pakistan
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
180 x 118
Materials & techniques
Wool; Knotted pile, fringed
Gift of Max Allen
Textile Museum of Canada T02.13.15

This rug is one of 118 war rugs donated by Max Allen, a founder of the Textile Museum of Canada. Featuring images of weapons, battles, and destruction, these rugs reflect the turbulent history of Afghanistan in the late 20th century and document the dramatic transformation of the ancient tradition of rug weaving in this region at the time of the Soviet invasion (1979–89) and the American invasion that started in 2001. The donation of this significant collection also reflects the collector’s passion for textiles as documents of current social and political events.

Production of war rugs started in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. Rugs from this period are not numerous and feature war imagery (tanks, helicopters, land mines and guns) stylized as or dispersed among floral and geometric traditional designs. Later, after the withdrawal of Soviet troops and as the civil war progressed, many communities turned to weaving war rugs in northern Afghanistan (and in Pakistan, in refugee camps); with the country in ruins it was often the only way to earn an income. The number of war rugs produced since then is astonishing; judging from their quantity and variety in quality, materials and designs they were made by the entire population – experienced weavers and beginners, old and young, men and women. A striking document of the turbulent modern history of Afghanistan, war rugs are also evidence of the fortitude of its people who in their struggle for survival have reached an international market, supplying Western Europe and North America with thousands of handmade war rugs.

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