Tensile Strength: Weavers and War showcases intriguing forms of carpet-making known as Afghan War Rugs. Mounted to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, and curated by Michele Hardy, PhD, all exhibits come from the textile holdings at Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary.
These iconic forms of material culture first appeared after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when Afghan weavers started experimenting with novel carpet motifs. Instead of traditional geometric designs, rug makers began incorporating guns, tanks, landmines, and aircraft.
Following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, 2001, and subsequent American-led coalition invasion of Afghanistan, carpet making took a new turn. Weavers moved beyond production for domestic use, to the creation of woven posters, likely intended as souvenirs.
Although war rugs may be known best for depicting weaponry and violence, Tensile Strength also includes weavings of celebrated figures, places, and scenes from epic tales suggesting a different, possibly more local audience. Examples include archaeological sites, modern cityscapes and a tribute in honour of the late Afghan hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Taken as a whole, Tensile Strength: Weavers and War brings together enigmatic artifacts to explore Afghan weavers’ creativity and resilience, demonstrating the complex interplay of conflict and culture.