Diagram chart of grenades from Afghan war rugs, and finished textile panel
Workshop participants with sample textiles and diagram charts from Afghan war rugs
Workshop participants in the deserts of Joshua Tree, California
Workshop participants examining the details on an Afghan war rug
Creating a diagram from an Afghan war rug sample
Diagram of grenades
Research images (clockwise from top left): Afghan war rug, Afghan crochet stitch, Mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, cover of a book on crochet afghan blankets.
Viewing the fake Afghan village, Ertebat Shar, from a telescope
Ertebat Shar, dotting the hillside on the edge of Joshua Tree, California
Camp CARPA, temporarily located in the deserts of Joshua Tree, California
2013 - ongoing
Workshops and diagrams culled from Afghan war rugs. Presented at Camp CARPA, 2013, Joshua Tree, California. This site was in proximity to the fake Afghan village of Ertebat Shar, built for American military exercises.
Conflating the domestic craft of crochet with the phenomena of Afghan “war rugs,” I presented a series of workshops and discussions about issues of empire, cross-cultural “infection,” and the residues of global conflict embedded in craft traditions.
This involved teaching participants how to crochet a textile panel using what has been popularly dubbed the “Afghan stitch,” and subsequently “invading” it with imagery of Soviet-era tanks and implements of war. The resulting panel is a hybrid textile that confuses the boundaries of culture and tradition, and attempts to bring closer to home a series of events that happened decades ago and a world away.
After the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in the late 70s and 80s, local Afghan weavers began incorporating stylized depictions of Kalashnikov rifles, grenades, helicopters, tanks, and bullets into their rug patterns. The collision of tradition and recent conflict is starkly played out in these artifacts, becoming an artisan’s response to the visuals of the world around them.
As the term “craft” has come to encompass a myriad and diverse array of forms around the world -- from leisure production and commodity, to centuries-old traditions that mark ethnicities and nationalities -- I sought to further complicate the boundaries of affliction and infection by crossing this war-related imagery with the domestic craft of crochet. Part research project as well as hands-on workshop format, Afghanicraftistan is attempting to catalog and create a visual database of the variations of war patterns found on the war rugs, attesting to the variety and stylistic innovation of the Afghan weavers.
Afghanicraftistan debuted at Camp CARPA as a participatory and engaged project – the dialogues and involvement of other textiles experts and weavers was an invaluable asset to the development of my thinking process and will influence the forward movement of the work. The translated patterns I produce will be for distribution. People are encouraged to use, download, and incorporate them into their own projects-- lending themselves well to knitting, embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, weaving, and any craft that incorporates a grid-like structure.
I see this as a reverse-infiltration, an infection of patterns inspired by colonial invasion coming back to roost upon the domestic, "safe" Western craft world. This work furthers my exploration into the relationship between empire and colony production, how globalized economies affect the intimately handmade, and how historical conflict can be imbedded in craft traditions.
A formal collection of downloadable PDFs of Afghanicraftistan patterns is forthcoming.
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