Sept. 10, 2021

Commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

Exhibitions in UCalgary’s Founders’ Gallery chronicle Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan and explore how a longstanding Afghan art form evolved post-9/11
Mission Afghanistan: Canadian armoured operation with LAV III and Leopard 2A6M Main Battle Tank. Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, October 13, 2010.
Mission Afghanistan: Canadian armoured operation with LAV III and Leopard 2A6M Main Battle Tank. Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, October 13, 2010. Courtesy Combat Camera, Department of National Defence

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, marks 20 years since the horror and devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Two exhibitions in UCalgary’s Founders’ Gallery are the first in a new season of Afghanistan-related programs, underpinning a ceremony at 11 a.m. tomorrow that will be livestreamed by The Military Museums of Calgary.

The exhibition Mission: Afghanistan chronicles Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan in the years after 9/11, based on the experiences of Canadians who served between 2001 and 2014. More than 200 oral histories illustrate their commitment and sacrifices. The Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy and Air Force are all represented.

Also included is an examination of Canada’s role in the international effort in Afghanistan, with contributions from those who were senior government leaders and decision makers at the time. Prominent Canadian military leaders also discuss major operations in Afghanistan.

“Addressing global conflict is not easy, particularly for new generations that don’t recall the War on Terror,” says Dick Averns, curatorial co-ordinator. “Venues such as UCalgary Founders’ Gallery provide a platform for art and artefacts to make meaningful contributions to understanding humanity.”

Tensile Strength: 9/11, circa 2004

Tensile Strength: 9/11, circa 2004, Afghanistan Gift of Robert Fyke, Collection of Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary.

The accompanying exhibition Tensile Strength: Weavers and War features war rugs from the Rug and Textile Collection of Nickle Galleries. It draws on the museum’s extensive holdings of Asian carpets and textiles including contemporary carpets woven by Afghan weavers.

War rugs are an iconic form of material culture first appearing 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 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent American-led coalition invasion of Afghanistan, carpet making took a new turn,” explains Dr. Michele Hardy, PhD of UCalgary’s Nickle Galleries and curator of the exhibition. “Weavers moved beyond production for domestic use, to the creation of woven posters, likely intended as souvenirs.”

The Founders’ Gallery season of Afghanistan-related programming will continue until the end of 2021.

Mission: Afghanistan is a bilingual traveling exhibition developed in partnership between TMM and the Department of National Defence Directorate of History and Heritage.

Dick Averns will moderate a panel discussion on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at 1 p.m. entitled 9/11 Twenty Years On. Panelists include Dr. David Bercuson, PhD, professor in UCalgary’s Centre for Military, Strategic and Security Studies, and Afghan newcomer and political scientist Kawa Aahangar. This will also be livestreamed.

Take a virtual tour of Tensile Strength by watching the recording of the Sept. 9 Nickle at Noon on the Nickle Galleries YouTube channel.