Every time there is war in a region, the locals look for ways to ease their frustration in an effort to remain hopeful. Afghanistan has been at war for a long time and while most people are aware of the United States invasion in 2001, the Soviet Union had occupied the region in 1979. The Middle East region is renowned for its creative rug art and this trade was popular among the women. Up until the dawn of the 1980s, Afghanistan rug makers would dramatically alter the designs of the rugs. Instead of flowers, tanks, airplanes and rocket launchers would comprise the basic design of the rugs. Even though these new-age rug designs would be symbolic of hard and trying times, they would be among the richest art form as a result of war.
The art of rug making in Afghanistan for centuries past was practiced by women. As it was popular among the nomadic tribes, it was not long before various tribes took it up as an activity they would do with their hands. The presence of the Pazyryk rug believed to have been made in the 4th century B.C. is evidence of this deep-rooted tradition. The rugs were used a medium to preserve patterns and lessons as experienced by the artist. It is this inspiration to make art pieces to depict the life around them, which led to the rug images changing following the invasion of Soviet forces.
Alighiero Boetti – Mapa del mundo (Map of the World), 1971-72, embroidery
In 1971 upon his departure from Italy and his arrival in Afghanistan, Alighiero Boetti began a continuous collaboration with local weavers to produce embroidered tapestries, using himself only as the referential artist but considering the works a creation of a combined effort. Mappa del Mundo is a colorful, beautiful crafted tapestry showing each country emblazoned with its own flag, examining borders, frontiers, nationalism, and patriotism. The borders are emblazoned with Italian and Persian texts, selected by Boetti and the craftswomen. Over the next two decades, from 1971 to 1994, more than 150 Mappe of different colors and sizes were created in this way. From this, geopolitical changes were tracked throughout the world, transforming a simple idea into a political vision by visualizing territory disputes and regime changes. Halfway through their endeavour, the embroiderers selected a pink thread to fill in the oceans, completely altering the look of the works. Boetti loved the intrusion of chance into the artistry of the craftsmen, and let them select the thread colors from then on. Because of this, he has little say in the appearance of the maps.