In 1969, the Italian conceptual artist Alghiero Boetti (1940-1994) designed a world map, with each country represented by the patterns of its national flag as if that were its essential identity. Boetti then commissioned weavers in Afghanistan, where he traveled frequently, to embroider the map.
This one, from 2003, has some details of Kevin Sudeith’s business:
Less than 1% of Afghan rugs have war motifs. If a weaver is going to invest six weeks in making a 4-foot-by-7-foot rug, she usually picks a pattern guaranteed to please an average buyer–somebody who doesn’t want to be intellectually challenged by a floor covering.
He has been doing this since 1998 and has yet to meet the weavers of the rugs…
Although Afghan weavers are traditionally women, Western collectors and dealers only deal with intermediaries, so it’s difficult to verify who actually makes the rugs, and under what circumstances. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, lists those made in Afghanistan and Pakistan among the crafts that may involve child and forced labor. Sudeith himself never met the Afghan family that makes most of his rugs. “The brass ring for war rug people is to speak with weavers and hear their stories and motivations,” he confesses. “So far, it’s been impossible.”