Shaheer Zazai: Digital Images
Posted: Aug 18th, 2023 | Gathering

As part of the digital component of Gathering, the Textile Museum partnered with the collective Mending the Museum. Shaheer Zazai was one of six artists invited to interpret pieces from the Textile Museum’s collection.

Shaheer created the digital images you see below in response to Afghan war rugs from the collection. Learn more about the Mending the Museum project here






Shaheer Zazai’s practice focuses on exploring and attempting to investigate the development of cultural identity in the present geopolitical climate and diaspora. The digital works revolve around Microsoft Word and imagery reminiscent of traditional Afghan carpets. Through mimicking carpet-making methods, Zazai creates his own designs in Microsoft Word, where every knot of a carpet is translated into a typed character. 

 Over the years Zazai’s material vocabulary has expanded into textile work, site-specific public art installations and video works with his lens becoming self-reflective. For the ‘Mending the Museum’ he worked with the images of war rugs from the museum’s collection. With removal of war imagery from the collection, Zazai is curious about the landscape that will emerge from the rugs. Maybe a new narrative will emerge. Maybe the gardens will flourish. Maybe a dream garden will emerge that will invite the viewer to form their story of the dreamer. The dreamer herein being the land itself. The dreamer here being Afghanistan. 

 For this project Zazai is focused on the museum’s war rug collection. He is looking at the collection from a standpoint of representation of a culture and how visual representation maintains a specific language towards a culture. Carpets/rugs are garden designs and in institutional representation Zazai has found Afghanistan represented as a war garden. Afghans have been narrowed down to war gardeners, while there is little to no dialogue about the war dealers that continue to demand of war crops. How can they grow a beautiful dream garden full of flora and fauna when the seeds being supplied are those of weapons? Are Afghans just a symbol for war? Has war become their identifiable garb? How can Afghans be anyone else when they are represented only in the form of war & weapons? 

Below are some images of the rugs that Shaheer selected. Learn more about the pieces in our online collection by clicking on the live links below.

Rug [T2008.1.108]
Asia: Central Asia, Afghanistan, 2007
Gift of Max Allen

Rug [T2008.1.43]
Asia: Central Asia, Afghanistan, 2001-2006
Gift of Max Allen


Rug [T2008.1.34]
Asia: Central Asia, Afghanistan, 1990 – 2006
Gift of Max Allen


This work is created as part of Gathering, the inaugural installation of our new Collection Gallery, featuring community stories told through our global collection. Grounded in community participation, the installation presents over 40 pieces from the Museum’s permanent collection of over 15,000 objects from around the world. Choices of objects, responses, and retellings were gathered via open online calls for reflection, through partnerships with local organizations, and through artists’ interventions. Gathering explores themes related to migration and diaspora, the search for comfort in the domestic and familial, reclamation of ancestral traditions through contemporary artistic responses, and the relationship between textiles and the environment. 

Through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Now Strategy Initiative.

Post a Comment