Alighiero Boetti began producing the Mappe (Maps) series in 1971 after his first trip to Afghanistan. Struck by embroidery work in Kabul, he outsourced the embroidery for his series to local women with whom he collaborated.The completed work questions conventional authorship. According to Boetti, “For the finished work, I myself did nothing in the sense that the work is as it is (I didn’t draw it) and the national flags are as they are (I didn’t design them). In short, I did absolutely nothing. What emerges from the work is the concept.” The top and bottom borders in Italian contain the signature, place, year of execution, and wordplay that is typical of the artist: “Lasciare il certo per l’incerto e viceversa e io” (Leave the certain for the uncertain and vice versa and I). On the side borders, texts in Farsi—selected by Afghan men with whom Boetti also collaborated—read: “I know of seas that embrace land” (left) and “I knew of seas that embraced land” (right). In the wake of Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the shift from present to past tense seems melancholic. Boetti subsequently shifted production of the embroidered maps to Peshawar (Pakistan).


  • Title: Map
  • Creator: Alighiero Boetti
  • Creator Lifespan: (1940 – 1994)
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Date Created: 1983
  • Physical Dimensions: h 115, w 177.8, d 2.5 cm
  • Rights: Courtesy Magazzino Italian Art Foundation
  • Medium: Embroidery on fabric

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