Today my friends Lisa and Anna and I left the peaceful, chicken-ey atmosphere of Lisa’s place and headed to Oxford, Ohio to see Miami University Art Museum’s show entitled Tanks, Helicopters, Guns and Grenades: Afghan War Rugs of the 1980’s – 2007. On display were hand woven, pictorial rugs depicting the images relating to everyday life in Afghanistan. Most often these rugs have been woven by people, mostly women, who are on the move as refugees, fleeing from war torn areas of violence.
Rugs are used in Muslim culture for praying, sleeping, birthing, even to cover tombs. Often, rugs are one of the few possessions refugees can carry with them when displaced. It is sad to see how once common iconographic images of nature, animals and people have been replaced or at least joined by the imagery of war – helicopters, bombs, airplanes, guns. Yet also in these rugs there is woven a strength that is palpable, to me at least, upon viewing them. On some rugs, the artist mixes in her own image as woman into the image of a warplane. These rugs have been discovered in the Western markets and so there is commercial value in them. However, I think their greater value is the message these images bring to the world outside of Afghanistan. I was deeply moved by this collection.
After being slightly overwhelmed by the vast number of War Rugs on display, I was a little disappointed in the lack of number of quilts on display in the Hiestand Galleries across campus in the show, Pieces of Power: a Selection of Quilts from Gee’s Bend. That said, the ones that were available were simply wonderful to see.
I have only seen Gee’s Bend quilts in books over the years and have always been impressed by their graphic design quality and use of colors, but quilts should be seen in person, up close, where you can feel their coziness. The women of Gee’s Bend made these quilts to use – to cuddle up with, and this is evident upon seeing them. I am grateful for the opportunity to see at least a few of them and will certainly jump at the chance to see the larger show if it comes around to my corner of the world.