Drones are everywhere — even on rugs

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Marco Werman: So for musicians in that part of the world, a drone means one thing. For others, a drone is that perilous thing buzzing up in the sky. They’ve of course got a bad reputation for many people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that hasn’t stopped drones from turning up in the designs of rug weavers there. Kevin Sudeith collects rugs that have war themes on them, and I gather you’ve been collecting some of these “drone rugs.” Describe them, if you would. What do they look like?


Kevin Sudeith: The rugs with drones on them are vegetable-dyed carpets that are woven in western Pakistan. They’re a very soft wool and the hues are muted, and the patterns consist of an array of different drones. One of the carpets has three different models of drones on it and they seem to be at scale. The two other drone rugs each feature one drone--one has a predator drone and one has the reaper drone.


Werman: It’s kind of extraordinary, they look like traditional rugs, it’s just that the images on them are totally contemporary. It’s a pretty niche area for art collectors. How did you get into this war rug field and how would you define a war rug?


Sudeith: A war rug is any carpet that has military images on it, whether they’re planes, rockets, rifles, soldiers, grenades. I saw my first war rug at a wealthy Italian jewelers house and he had a contemporary art collection, and on the floor was this carpet that had a traditional border, some elaborate Arabic script in the border, and then the field was full of tanks and helicopters and grenades and rifles, and I was amazed by it. I had never seen anything like it. That combination of something so traditional as a Persian carpet coupled with super-contemporary imagery was amazing to me.


Werman: Have you ever had a chance to speak with one of the weavers?


Sudeith: I haven’t. I have corresponded with the families of some of the weavers. The “brass ring” for war rug aficionados and experts is to interview the ladies that weave the rugs and to understand what made them weave them in the first place, and so far that has been impossible, or no one has succeeded in doing that yet.


Werman: Well, let’s say it is possible. What is one question you’d want to ask one of those weavers that you really want an answer to?


Sudeith: I would like to know what is the message that they’re trying to convey, because so many of the war rugs seem more documentary than didactic or political, and I would like to know what motivates them to combine their contemporary life with their ancient patterns and traditions.


Werman: In the meantime, where are your drone rugs right now? Are they hanging? Are they rolled up? They’re not on the floor, right?


Sudeith: Well, I did use the rugs on the floor and I have hung them up. I took my very favorite war rug ever, which is a real traditional pattern with just a couple tanks and helicopters, and gave it to my father and he uses it on his floor. That’s where they work best.


Werman: Kevin Sudeith is an artist and a rug collector. Kevin, great to meet you, thank you so much.


Sudeith: You’re welcome.