Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Monday, 16 February 2015

Making Contact: The Story of a Tapestry

Yesterday's post gave you a glimpse into the world of the Afghani weavers who make the pieces which have transitioned from using tribal, spiritual and natural motifs to including or being composed exclusively of images of war. The effects of war continue; this article on the current rugs and the living conditions of the refugees caught in Pakistan camps speaks of the ongoing struggles of the people forced from their homes and living under threat of constant violence. 

When I first learned of these rugs, I was fascinated by the beauty which can come out of such struggles. I wanted to pay tribute to the weavers I would never meet and acknowledge the suffering which I hope will end for everyone and which I hope I and my community will never experience. I knew I had neither the weaving skills or the knowledge of this culture to weave anything similar, but the subject matter called to me. Then, in March 2005, an article in the local newspaper caught my attention. A sixteen year old boy had surrendered to (or been captured by, according to which source you read) authorities while wearing a vest loaded with explosives. The photo which accompanied the article showed a terrified child, hands on his head, surrounded by soldiers, bombs strapped to his torso. Ten years ago, reports of strapping bombs to children and sending them on suicide missions was still uncommon and as horrifying as it should be. The idea that anyone would think this was a justifiable practice, coupled with the fact that this boy was the same age as my son, made me ill. The image of the young man haunted me. Surely, this couldn't be the way of the world? (Sadly, now, we hear these reports far too often. Recently, a 9 year old girl was turned into a bomb and sent to explode in a crowded market.) 

At the time, I was weaving a series about characters from various mythologies. The first was "Anni and Eve." "Minerva" had followed soon after, but I was unsure of what came next. When I saw the article, a tapestry appeared in my mind's eye - "Mars," the god of War. I sketched out a rough cartoon, set up one of my tapestry looms and began to weave. The result was this piece, approximately 27.5 cm x 40 cm (11 x 16 inches):

"Mars" was woven on a Cactus loom, with a four selvedge finish, using hand spun wool singles on a commercial wool singles warp. With the exception of the red letters in "Mars," the orange pineapple grenades and the sixteen candles in the border, the wefts are naturally coloured and naturally dyed yarns. I deliberately used fugitive dyes for some of the background; the theory is that the script in the tapestry will become more visible with the passage of time. (It seems to be working.) The portrait of the boy is based on the newspaper photograph and photographs of my son. The tapestry was completed in October 2005. It's a gift to Young Mr. DD. Hussam Abdo, the boy in the photograph, was sent to prison in Israel. As far as I know, he's still there.


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