Leisure Recreation and the Arts

Boys and girls have very different leisure-time activities. Girls spend their free time playing jacks and other girlish games, imitating cooking by making mud pies, dressing their faceless dolls in finery and placing them in a tiny wedding palanquin, singing and talking about marriage and wedding gifts, and pretending to be the wives and mothers they will soon become.

In contrast, boys' gangs roam the village playing pranks, wrestling, joking, and hunting birds with slingshots. They do not sing nor do they play with dolls. Adolescent gangs sometimes commit rape, destroy property, and have slingshot fights with boys from other wards and neighboring villages. Until recently, these intervillage battles were ritual occasions that could end in death.

Adult men do not have a great deal of leisure time during the farming season, but winter is usually quiet, and then they rest on cots in the men's house of their ward drinking tea, talking politics, and taking nusfar (chewing tobacco) with their allies and clients. Some men play cards, smoke hashish, and sing popular songs, but these activities are considered reprehensible and occur only among very close comrades. Women have even less leisure, since children and husbands always need to be cared for. When women do relax they exchange gossip, complain about their husbands, and tell tales of hardship. These occasions take place during women's periodic visits to other households where they join in mourning or celebrating rites of passage.

Entertainment is rare, and is provided by travelling troops of male musicians and female dancer-prostitutes who perform at weddings and other special celebrations. Women are not permitted to watch these events, but look on from behind screens or from afar.

While the primary female art form is lamentation and narratives of distress, some women also make complex abstract decorations on their house walls, supposedly to ward off the evil eye. Men do not practice any visual art, but they do recite and sometimes compose poetry, usually in rhymed couplets.

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