Afghan war rugs
Unravelling the Yarns: War Rugs and Soldiers is an exhibition of Afghan war rugs from the Fyke collection at the University of Calgary, on now at Calgary's The Military Museums.
There was a similar exhibition, Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan at Toronto's Textile Museum of Canada in 2008. A different collection, but the same kind of carpet: traditionally woven but, as Max Allen said in his curatorial essay for Battleground: 'Afghan weavers depict on their rugs what they see and what matters most to them. And so over three decades of chaos, the customary images of flowers have turned into bullets, or landmines, or hand grenades. Birds have turned into helicopters and fighter jets. Landscapes have filled up with field guns and troop carriers. Sheep and horses have turned into tanks.'
They are not rare, and although the Unravelling the Yarns notes by curator Michelle Hardy seemed to suggest that they are a form of tourist art, some of the carpets are so similar to pre-conflict carpets in their graphic form that they do appear as a personal, narrative recording of war where grenades look like flowers.
Others are like small posters, often with the world trade centre, maps and much block printing. Or they are careful and accurate depictions of AK-47s. One can see these as using woven traditions to make souvenirs of war, notations of the tools of war that have blasted traditional landscapes into irrelevance.