A form of needlework characterized by decorative stitching onto fabric, leather, or other materials, embroidery has a rich global history that dates back to Eurasia in the Upper Paleolithic period. One of the most important examples of illustrated embroidery in the Western world is the 10th-century Bayeux Tapestry, which narrates the Norman conquest of England. Like all handicraft, embroidery is often relegated to the category of archaeological objects or decorative arts, thus being denied the creative significance afforded to fine art. Starting in the 1970s, Italian artist Alighiero e Boetti challenged this long-standing hierarchy, commissioning Afghan embroiderers to create his iconic “Mappa” series of colorful world maps patched together with patterns of national flags.

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