“Stop. We greet you as liberators. This “we” is that “us” in the margins, that “we” who inhabit marginal space that is not a site of domination but a place of resistance. Enter that space. This is an intervention. I am writing to you. I am speaking from a place in the margins where I am different, where I see things differently. I am talking about what I see.”
- bell hooks “Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics”
Why do we need to reclaim Sherpa?
Because its not right. We Sherpas are an indigenous ethnic group from Nepal with our history, culture and language that we are proud of. Many people in the West wrongly associate the word ‘Sherpa’ with porters and mountain guides who have been indispensable for the success of mountaineering expeditions in the Chomolungma (Everest) region. The romanticization of everyday lives of Sherpas by Westerner mountaineers, reinforced by added glamour of Chomolungma – the highest mountain on Earth – may have led to this misappropriation. Not only that, Sherpa is also used in branding goods and services, mostly in the West. The brand name Sherpa in the advertising world is something dependable, sturdy, can guide you, is at your service, and something that works for you so the you can achieve your potential. This orientalization of Sherpa has also made its way into popular usage with both positive and negative connotations.
Westerners do not have the right to box us into certain stereotypes, impose their meaning on us, trivialize the word that represents us, and then profit off of it. Their ability to do so for the last four decades, and the unproblematization of this issue beyond the individual level speaks volumes about their imperialistic mentality and power.
Many Sherpas detest this association and think that it hurts their ability to represent themselves as they will. Until and unless we raise our voice against the the borrowing of ‘Sherpa’ by the Everest mountaineering sector to signify expedition supporters, as well as the rampant misappropriation and commodification of Sherpa by Western companies and orgnizations, this trend will only continue.
Our next steps will be to raise a more organized voice through Sherpa associations in Nepal and in the diaspora, followed by letters and petitions to key companies and organizations that have misappropriated Sherpa. Please join us, we need more people, more support. Any form of support, information and/or suggestion you can provide will be much appreciated.
For more context on why this protest is needed please read:
- “Not your Sherpa” Ang Sanu Lama, http://j.mp/1372ZXg
- “At home in the Himalayas” Richard Bull http://j.mp/13739xO
- “Are Sherpa Guides Safe” Amanda Snellinger http://j.mp/1372NHv
- “Philosophical prejudices” Gyanu Adhikari http://j.mp/13dD9B7
- “Of Sherpas and white men” Pranaya SJB Rana http://j.mp/13dCAXT