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, predominantly in western countries, 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.
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. This blog is an attempt to raise this issue, to agitate people into action!