Afghan war rugs in Smithsonian

Since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Turkmen weavers have woven "war rugs" that depict machines of war, battle maps, and even 9/11. Interestingly, the rugs depicting the planes crashing into the Twin Towers are based on images from US propaganda leaflets dropped on Afghanistan. The new issue of Smithsonian explores this incredibly interesting art form. From the article:

 Images Afghan-Rugs-5
These rugs, principally woven by women of the Turkman culture, often include red or yellow hues and are peppered with large weapons, military vehicles and English phrases such as "Hand Bom [Bomb]," "Rooket [Rocket]" and "Made in Afghanistan."

To many, this script is a firm indication of the rugs' intended audience: Westerners, and in particular, Americans, who funded the Afghan resistance–the Mujahadeen–during the Soviet occupation. "The rugs are geared for a tourist market," says Margaret Mills, a folklorist at Ohio State University who has conducted research in Afghanistan since 1974. "And they verbally address this market." Sediq Omar, a rug merchant from Herat who dealt in war rugs during and after the Soviet occupation, agrees. "Afghanis don't want to buy these," he says. "They're expensive for them. It's the Westerners who are interested."

While this may be true, it's likely that the first "hidden" war rugs from the early 1980s were meant for fellow Afghanis, according to Hanifa Tokhi, an Afghan immigrant who fled Kabul after the Soviet invasion and now lives in northern California. "Later on, they made it commercialized when they found out that people were interested," she says. "But at the beginning, it was to show their hatred of the invasion. I know the Afghan people, and this was their way to fight."


Previously on BB:
• Afghan rugs depict Twin Towers Link