In the early 1970s, Italian conceptual artist Boetti was thinking about collaborating with Afghan artisans. As a test run, he asked local craftswomen to create two embroideries, one with the words “December 16, 2040” (the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth) and the other with the text “July 11, 2023” (the day he predicted he would die). The embroiderers strayed from Boetti’s original designs, however, surrounding the dates with floral patterns and decorations. Boetti—interested in the concept of chance in artmaking—enjoyed this surprise, and thus began his decades-long partnership with Afghan craftswomen.
Boetti traveled to Afghanistan so frequently that he opened his own hotel in Kabul in 1971. It remained open until the Soviet invasion in 1979. During this time, the artist began his famed “Mappa” series (1971–1994), for which he commissioned over 150 embroideries of world maps that included flags from each country represented. Taken together, these textiles document the changing political landscape, as borders between nations shifted from year to year. In the 1980s and ’90s, Boetti continued to employ Afghan artisans who were living in exile in Pakistan to create textiles depicting word-squares for his “Arazzi” series and everyday symbols for his “Tutto” series.