Ghorbat - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. The itinerant Ghorbat manufactured mainly sieves and tambourines but also bird cages and some traditional cosmetics; the peddling of these products in addition to cloth, haberdashery, trinkets, and certain services ensured their subsistence. Four major types of sieves (with eleven subcategories) and three sizes of tambourines (of three different qualities each) were made. Rattle-drums were also made. The sieves were for agricultural and household use and consisted of a circular frame of willow wood over which thongs of sheep- or goatskin were interwoven; the tambourines were also made of willow and sheep or goat hide. In addition, the Ghorbat often also stretched the skins over clay arm-drums made by potters. The bird cages were made of cedar and either split bamboo or long olive twigs. The entire manufacturing process was manual. Increasingly, industrially manufactured imported sieves tended to reduce the demand in urban kitchens for the traditional flour sieve made by the Ghorbat. In the early 1970s a few young men abandoned these traditional occupations and took lowwage labor, opened small shops, or sold their services as carpenters or other sedentary artisans. An entire section of the long sedentarized Ghorbat of Kabul city worked as animal traders and cobblers and did various other jobs. No Ghorbat owned agricultural land, and the only domestic animals were a few dogs, hens, and, decreasingly, donkeys as pack animals.

Division of Labor. Ghorbat men were in charge of manufacturing sieves, tambourines, and cages. Women were traditionally responsible for peddling these and other goods and services (including, at times, matchmaking and moneylending) from door to door; they sometimes lent a hand in making tambourines too. Women and men shared a large number of household chores.

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