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Object Timeline

1979

  • Work on this object began.

1990

  • Work on this object ended.

2009

2019

  • You found it!

War Rug (Afghanistan), 1979–90

This is a War rug. It is dated 1979–90 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is wool and its technique is knotted pile. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Both the Soviet Union (in 1979) and the United States (in 2001) have invaded Afghanistan. Between the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and the start of the 21st-century War on Terror came a decade of brutal civil war. Through these decades of international and civil war, Afghans have borne witness to disaster by weaving unprecedented images of battles and weaponry into their rugs.
This piece has a field and border layout and combines medallion and floral patterns with a few discreet tanks and helicopters. The tanks and helicopters are not immediately apparent because most traditional oriental rugs share the same layout: a patterned center field, like a garden, framed on all sides by a protective border. The earliest war rugs, from the period of the Soviet occupation, often share this format. They look like typical floral carpets until, upon closer inspection, one notices instruments of war neatly hidden in the body of the rug or encircling its border. Sometimes images of weapons cover the whole field of the rug, like a colorful meadow of flowers, framed by rows of bullets or grenades. In the 1980s, Russian helicopters and infantry scattered millions of PFM-1 mines, which were called “butterfly mines” because of their shape. The butterfly mine became a symbol of the war and has become a popular carpet motif.
The rug proposed for acquisition would enhance our collection of political and propaganda textiles.

This object was donated by Max Allen. It is credited Gift of Max Allen.

Its dimensions are

Warp x Weft: 154 x 89 cm (60 5/8 x 35 1/16 in.)

Cite this object as

War Rug (Afghanistan), 1979–90; wool; Warp x Weft: 154 x 89 cm (60 5/8 x 35 1/16 in.); Gift of Max Allen; 2009-5-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18730717/ |title=War Rug (Afghanistan), 1979–90 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=23 March 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>