Traditional Rugs Get Carpet Bombed

Even the most traditional art forms get remade from time to time to tackle modern issues. Traditional rugs are no exception. Historically, these rugs were woven by tribal women in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, rugs have been cropping up there with eye-popping designs: bright red and green tanks, purple Kalashnikovs, candy-colored grenades, and even helicopters. Some analysts say that traditional rugs are the medium through which female weavers are getting their messages out.

Because depicting plants, animals, and people were forbidden by the conservative Islamic Taliban, traditional designs were outlawed, and weavers simply reflect what they observe in their daily lives. Others scholars argue that the rugs are actually propaganda pieces promoted by the mujahideen, a radical departure from the peaceful heritage of the prayer rug.

As strange as a war-themed floor piece might be, even more controversial are the rugs featuring the World Trade Center attacks. While the average American rug buyer may find this to be extremely distasteful, others see these rugs as sympathetic expressions, eulogizing a traumatic moment of cultural collision.

Though not for everyone, these designs are sought after by some collectors. They can be difficult to find, since weavers are often refugees or live in isolated areas. Many war rugs come to the United States in the hands of returning troops.

Prices for traditional rugs that show the ravages of war have quadrupled since September 11th. They now range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, with only a handful of dealers specializing in them. They’ve also shown up in gallery shows and auctions from the Lower East Side to the Heartland. Some dealers believe that the uptick in war rugs is a sign that Western interest has penetrated the market, encouraging more weavers to represent popular images.

This interest in traditional-rugs-gone-rogue inspires greater quantities of war designs, as well as more intricate ones. While the earliest rugs from Afghanistan focused on their victory over the Soviet Union, the tone has changed in the last decade. The most recent rugs feature drones, which kill thousands of people in the regions where the pieces are made. One can only speculate that the many hours spent planning, composing, and executing these designs are a kind of meditation for the weavers whose lives are affected by the attacks.

Despite the intended messages of these rugs, they fascinate rug aficionados and have gained a significant audience in the United States. For those intrigued by the craftsmanship of Central Asian rugs but perhaps more inclined to own a high-quality art piece than a controversial message from a war zone, there is good news.

Traditional rugs still far outnumber war rugs, especially in urban areas where they’re woven primarily for export from fine New Zealand wool and feature chickens, fountains, and paisleys. These rugs never go out of style, the market for them is as strong as ever, and they are made by craftspeople all over the world.

Source by Ace Abbey

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