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Arts & Culture

Afghan War Rugs: The Marriage of an Old Tradition With Modern Reality

image courtesy Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Peace has been a fleeting concept for centuries in Afghanistan. The war the US fought there in the 21st Century came not long after the Soviet military occupation there. 

At the turn of the 20th Century, it was the British that fought in Afghanistan in a series of conflicts in which they fought to defend what they saw as their interests in that central Asian region.

But it was with the more recent wars in the background that the tradition of weaving war rugs emerged. The rugs depict everything from the occupiers themselves to maps to military equipment.   The works being created today almost exclusively feature the weapons of war.

An exhibit of Afghan War Rugs has recently opened at the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee.  It's curated by private curator AnnemarieSawkins, and rug collector Enrico Mascelloni.  

Sawkins says she's attracted to the genre for its intersection of history with modernity.  "What fascinates me is the fact that you've got this centuries-old tradition butting up against contemporary reality and contemporary society," she says.  "And really, in a way, it's very individualistic expression."

Afghan War Rugs: The Modern Art of Central Asia is on display through January 6, 2014.