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During the Russian-Afghan war (1979-1989), Afghan refugees fled to camps along the northeast border with Pakistan. Most war rugs were woven in these camps. This rug was supposedly made by the Chicactu people, who fled westward to Iran. Creating such artifacts under such circumstances is a remarkable feat, and a testament to the centuries-long practice of rug weaving.

Where was this textile created?

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Asia: Central Asia, Afghanistan
1980 - 1990
Wool woven in knotted pile
180 cm x 118 cm
Gift of Max Allen
T02.13.15 Textile Museum of Canada

In this finely knotted pile rug, a war landscape replaces the floral designs and geometric symbols usually found on oriental carpets. The three central panels are crowded with stylized helicopters, planes and armoured cars – a scene of horror in the place where a garden would typically appear. As your eyes move from the centre to the borders, you see the patterns change gradually from war symbols to geometric shapes.

War rugs provide insights into the experiences of the Afghan people during the Russian-Afghan conflict, and illustrate how a culture’s imagery and symbolism develop. The helicopters are reminiscent of a traditional rug symbol, the boteh, which is an ancestor of the paisley pattern.

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