from psy-op pamphlet to stateside souvenier
February 19, 2018 9:58 PM   Subscribe

Afghan War Rugs And The Lossy Compression Of Cultural Coding [Twitter][Spooler (req. login) ]

From Combat to Carpet: The Strange Story Of Afghan War Rugs
The Obscure Collector's Market for Afghan Kitsch that reflects almost 40 years of conflict

Generally produced as souvenirs depicting American symbols and images and motifs of modern war in a variety of styles, elements, with traditional structure and parts made by hand. The hand reproduction causes shifts in the depiction of helicopters, aircraft carriers, maps, and dove-chickens, and strange, unintended meanings, as outlined in the main link above. But it would be a mistake to think of all weavers mechanically copying instead of engaging in some Anti-Soviet Realism. So what are we actually looking at? How To Read A War Carpet

The Afghan Modern
The following essay summarises my thoughts about a group of Afghan conflict carpets produced in the years from 1988 to 1992, in which the dominant visual framing device is a map. Innovative in character, these carpets are distinct from other conventional uses of the map in the same medium during the same period, which I have written about elsewhere.[1] These particular examples are, I suggest, artefacts that collectively constitute an instance of a regional, or indigenous, modernism which has emerged independent of any cultural dependency or external influence, and which signals a break with the continuity of local traditions. In this sense, at least, it is like any other modernism.
Perhaps we're just seeing One-Half Of An Imaginary Conversation
Imagine you are the head of a carpet-making family living in the province of Herat, in western Afghanistan. Since the late seventies your life has been continuously disrupted by political coups, uprisings, air raids, then a decade of occupation by Soviet forces, puppet dictatorships, civil war, the domination of the Taliban, their overthrow by foreign military coalition, and continuing political unrest. Despite all of this, your region in Afghanistan is one of the most peaceful.

During these forty years, your extended family has managed to eke out a living by making carpets. Most of these have been repeats of traditional patterns and designs, which you have traded both locally and across the borders in Iran and Pakistan. It is a precarious business. A large carpet might take your team of women and children six months to make. Your family business is founded on fine craftsmanship, and fine, colourful wools – even though the dyes are now all synthetic, and some of the colours are bolder than they were in the past. You invest a lot of your earnings in securing the raw material from which your rugs are made.
More from Nigel Lendon, at Rugs of War

By the way: Drones Are Now Appearing On Afghan Rugs, like the "Tup-e-tung" [Dari] available in Kabul.

Looks like we'll be Reconsidering The Carpet Paradigm

previously: 2004, 2014
posted by the man of twists and turns (3 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

May I suggest, if you would like to own one, Combat Flip Flops is currently selling handmade Afghan war rugs. Each rug sold puts an Afghan Girl in school for a week through Aid Afghanistan for Education (AAE).

Learn more about Combat Flip Flops from this ABC news article or listen to founder Matthew Griffin discuss the power of persistence, creativity, and respect in this TEDx talk. More about the charities they support here.

posted by slipthought at 5:54 AM on February 20 [2 favorites]

Wow . . . I love pictorial rugs, and I might buy one. There was a time when I might have put it up on a wall somewhere . . . kind of surprised and a little sad to say that I am not that person anymore.
posted by filthy_prescriptivist at 6:54 AM on February 20

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