Women’s narratives in Afghan war rugs focus of new exhibition

Posted on: 10 May 2024

Women’s narratives in Afghan war rugs focus of new exhibition

A collection of 21 war rugs created by women are on display at Trinity’s School of Religion, Theology, and Peace Studies from May 11th to 24th.

The exhibition, entitled ‘The Aesthetics of Chaos’: A Visual Introduction of Women’s Narratives in Afghan War Rug Artistry', is being hosted by the School in collaboration with Iranian rug expert and collector Saman Khodayarifard who has collected these over the last few decades. 

The exhibition explores how these rugs, as a form of artdocument conflict and also challenge perceptions of war and women's roles in conflict.  The exhibition is free and open to the public and will run from 11th to 24th of May, Mon-Fri: 10am-7pm, Sat: 10am-4pm (not open on Sundays). More information from the School website here

Images of war are often synonymous with destruction and despair. However, a unique form of art, the war rug, challenges this perception by combining modern imageries of war with the traditional motifs of rugs. 

The rugs incorporate tanks, helicopters, and weapons into the geometric patterns and floral designs of Afghan carpets. This juxtaposition is jarring and surreal, reflecting the disruption of war intruding into everyday life. 

‘The Aesthetics of Chaos’ exhibition will examine how these works of art create a symbolic language to represent conflict, suffering, and beauty, explains Prof Gillian Wyle, Head of the School of Religion, Theology, and Peace Studies. 

These war rugs can be seen as a grassroots form of protest art, using symbolic imagery to depict war from the perspectives of civilians. They also communicate the trauma, fear, anxiety, and surreal experience of living with violence that the weavers themselves faced, offering emotional and psychological perspectives on the impact of war.  

Saman Khodayarifard added:  “The role of women in the production of war rugs is particularly noteworthy. Afghan women have been largely responsible for creating these rugs, transforming a domestic and industrial art form into a powerful mode of expression and manifesting how there is no gender gap in the battle scene.  

“One of the most important points is that these carpets are narratives from inside of the war and conflict, signifying the importance of creating beauty amidst chaos. The tactile experience of rugs adds layers of meaning to these objects, setting them apart from other types of visual art.


"These rugs serve not only as an expression against violence but also as a testament to the resilience of the people who create them in the face of devastating conflict.”  

More about: Saman Khodayarifard

Born in 1989 in Iran, Saman Khodayarifard, holds a master's degree in carpet studies from Kashan University. As a lecturer and collector, his passion lies in Afghan war rugs for their artistic and pictorial style. Since 2017, he has been dedicated to curating this unique collection, culminating in the exhibition today. He says his goal is to shine a spotlight on these contemporary art forms, inviting the world to appreciate their cultural significance. Through this exhibition, he says he aims to delve into the artistic the essence of these rugs, studying them from an art perspective.

*Images courtesy of Saeid Ahmadian and Saman Khodayarifard

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