Stitches

Afghan War Rugs Depict Drones, Other Weapons

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Afghan artisans have started incorporating images of drones in the rugs they weave.

Entrepreneur Kevin Sudeith was surprised when, back in the 1990s, he first saw images of Soviet weapons woven among the geometric patterns of rugs created by Afghan artisans. “The first rug that I bought was a red rug that had four Kalashnikovs on it, on the sides, and then a mix of tanks and helicopters in the middle,” he tells NPR. Sudeith was awed by how the piece married an ancient art form with contemporary images and commentary. He began collecting and selling rugs that incorporate modern weaponry like tanks, hand grenades and bazookas through his site WarRug.com.

Afghanistan has suffered through decades of war, first conflict with the Soviet Union, then civil war and 13 years of a U.S.-led NATO combat mission. Throughout these violent years, weavers have documented the machinery of war, updating the graphics used in their rugs to reflect the latest technology being deployed. The newest rugs Sudeith received late last year included depictions of American drones, which have proven very popular with collectors. Sudeith told NPR he won’t be surprised to see a surge in drone rugs in the near future, thanks to demand for the unconventional pieces.