Ghiljie women in the lower orders
Artist: James Rattray
Medium: Lithograph, coloured
This lithograph is taken from plate 6 of 'Afghaunistan' by Lieutenant James Rattray. This sketch was made on one of Rattray's journeys from Kabul to Kandahar with an Afghan escort. Rattray was uncomfortably aware that his companions could easily and quietly dispose of him, given the length of the journey and the remoteness of some of the places they passed through.
Rattray's group often came across roving bands of western Ghilzais, who lived a nomadic life from season to season, searching for pasture for their flocks. Their black felt tents stretched over twigs resembled a "flock of enormous bats skimming over the flat surface of the plain". Their women drove their camels, bullocks and donkeys, "laden sky-high with the most singular mix of goods and chattels". The unmarried Ghilzai women bore a peculiar badge of virginity on their foreheads: "[bringing] the whole of their hair to the front of their face, and kneading it into a compact cake with an admixture of dung and mud, ornament it with beads, bits of metal and coloured glass." Some of them were very pretty, Rattray observed, but others were squint-eyed from peering around the sides of their "odious distinction".