Indian or Indian? West Elm’s Dragonfly Dhurrie…

MIAC Dragonfly Dhurrie Image


No, I didn’t make the rug shown in the picture above. I ran across it on sale at West Elm’s website and (of course) was drawn to the geometric patterns so similar to the traditional Karuk/Indigenous designs that inspire much of my own artwork. I wasn’t surprised to learn that this piece was made in collaboration with the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (MIAC). An early 20th century textile in their collection provided inspiration and became the “MIAC Dragonfly Wool Dhurrie” which is available in a variety of sizes and is currently marked down as a final sale item. There was something about the description that really jumped out at me when I read it. I’ve posted a screenshot below, can you find it?

MIAC Dragonfly Dhurrie


What seemed so amusing was that it is inspired by the works of one group of (mis-named) Indians and handwoven by another group of (actual) Indians in India. There’s a lot going on in this dynamic. I’m not sure that I even want to write much about it beyond that I noticed it, and found it amusing/disturbing. In our contemporary society, a large retailer is trying to be socially responsible and ends up collaborating with a museum dedicated to the work of a group of indigenous peoples within their own country; but the actual manufacturing of these new items they are creating goes to the people in another country, on another continent, for whom the first group was mistakenly named after centuries ago when European explorers “discovered” the Americas. Yikes.

In any case, I do love the rug and like seeing that someone partnered with MIAC to develop a line of products. They also appear to be making an effort to work with socially responsible manufacturers and I commend them for this. Two groups of peoples with the same name but that are so rarely actually involved in anything together. And for all I know, there were very few American Indians involved with this project. Perhaps just curators at MIAC?



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