Today’s New York Times Metropolitan section has a story by Tammy La Gorce about the show ‘Art Amongst War’ at The College of New Jersey’s Art Gallery. The show is curated by Deborah Hutton, and it features an array of art made by Afghan artists including 5 war rugs loaned by warrug.com, including the one in Times’ story. The show includes fine paintings, beautiful needlework, historical and contemporary video, installation art and some beautiful and haunting photographs.
“The anonymous weavers of six 1980s and 1990s-era “war rugs” — carpets whose motifs include land mines, guns and soldiers — may have had no formal training, learning from their relatives, but they have incorporated the grim realities of life in a war zone into their traditional craft.”
I received an excellent question from our contact form recently about the lack of Red Rugs available for purchase on warrug.com lately. Below is was my response:
Your question about Red Rugs is a good one. Red Rugs were woven by refugees, primarily Turkmen, in Pakistan during the 1990’s. Since the US forced the Taliban from power in 2001 Turkmen refugees have been returning en masse to their traditional homes in Afghanistan, largely because ISAF offers them sufficient protection from the Taliban ethnic cleansing which drove many families to Pakistan during the 1990’s.
The effects of the Turkmen weavers returning to their homes in Afghanistan is, primarily, two fold. First, as refugees, if one was an engineer, one wove carpets. If one was a doctor, one wove carpets. Now the doctors and engineers are returning to their professions, so there are less weavers available to weave any type of rug. Secondly, many Turkmen weavers who wove Red Rugs in Pakistan are now weaving traditional designs or new variations of traditional designs (Khul Mohammadi mostly).
Much of the Pakistan production has moved to Afghanistan (Khul Mohammadi, Kazak, Vegetable Dye ‘Peshawar’) with the returning weavers, but not Red Rugs. I have not seen any Red Rugs produced in Afghanistan since 2001. In short, there is no more supply of Red Rugs. Occasionally I find a few Red Rugs and I post them, but they are scarce.
Lastly, this elimination of a design is not unique to Red Rugs, yet it continues to surprise me. Almost every war rug “pattern” has its moment of production, which then fades or stops. What is freely available one year, is totally unavailable the next year. Soviet Exodus rugs are one example and WTC rugs to a lesser degree.
Again, thank you for your question. Please write back if you have any further questions or comments.
Two by Two
Here are four rugs woven by two weavers of one pattern. The two pairs have distinctly different structures and materials, but each pair’s material, color, drawing, border, handle, knotting, and selvedge is consistent. Note inverted red helicopter in Camel 1.
Interestingly, in Murray Eiland’s Oriental Rugs, 1976 edition, on page 83 is a rug of this design attributed Shindand, mid twentieth century.
Warrug is looking for essays for its series of upcoming publications. Please contact warrug.com with ideas if you are interested.
Joanne Warfield’s photographs of Afghanistan are beautiful, and this group is important.
I asked permission to take photographs, which was kindly granted to me. I knew at the time that this was a unique and special honor.
so this incredible opportunity to photograph the tailorâ€™s family was a very special one indeed. And, little did I know at the time what a rare event it really was.
The whole portfolio is worth viewing. His book”
Boy with Khourjin
The tools for carpet weaving are simple and few. There’s the loom, in a horizontal position. The weaver squats on the finished carpet as she weaves. She ties new knots of dyed yarn along the edge. She trims the tied knot with the curved knife. Then she tightens the finished row of knots with the long-handled comb. Then, she further trims the area she just finished with the scissors, maintaining an even pile on the whole carpet.
I stumbled across this piece by the author James Opie.
Two basic streams of carpet designs can be identified in Afghanistan in the past several centuries. One is an urban design tradition of finely and precisely organized patterns, produced by professional carpet designers on the equivalent of graph paper. Given that weavings of this sort were produced in urban areas, this can be thought of as a â€œcityâ€ design tradition. Designs in such rugs are more formal, echoing Persian design influences.
Tribal designs represent a second and largely independent stream. Motives and patterns differ from tribe to tribe, depending very much on the traditions of the various groups and, to a lesser extent, on the inventiveness of the individual weavers. This second design stream of â€œtribalâ€ rugs is the dominant one in Afghan weaving. An amalgam of the two streams can be found in certain workshop rugs that produced larger rugs with traditional tribal designs.