went to an amazing exhibition opening last night at the Textile Museum of Canada...a museum i'd never visited before, though i'd often been intrigued by their exhibit themes. last night, "Battleground" opened, which includes sketches from the Kandahar journals of Richard Johnson, along with an intriguing collection of military patches. but the show-stopping heart of the exhibit is Max Allen's collection of war rugs from Afghanistan. Allen is cofounder of the Textile Museum; he first started seeing these rugs ten years ago and was drawn to collect them as a testament to the wars, battles, and disasters that Afghans have witnessed over the past three decades.
the rugs are eerie for their familiarity--even if you've only ever walked on an Ikea-produced knock-off, you know the basic patterns. but here, alongside the horses and camels, the birds and flowers, there are motifs of grenades and tanks, missiles and machine guns, woven alongside repeating geometric shapes (some of which, tragically, are actually the shape of landmines). the image above is the best for a tiny reproduction, to give you an idea of what these rugs are like--many are far more complex in their design and execution. the exhibition highlights the mystery of the rugs as well as their harsh reality: there's no recognized craftsperson. we don't know who exactly has made these rugs, or why, precisely. but as a testament to a place Canada currently is deeply involved in, the exhibition makes for fascinating conversation.