Melemchi Village, Nepal 1989

Supplementary materials: 4
Cataloging supported by Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee
Full film record depicting life in the Sherpa village of Melemchi at the head of the Helembu Valley, Nepal. Filmed in the winter of 1989, the project was conceived to document the cultural ecology of Melemchi with the focus on the interactions between herd management, Sherpa cyclical wage labor and migration to India. Footage featuring holidays and religious ceremonies include: preparations made for Losar, Tibetan New Year which include pounding rice for rice flour (samba), baking "gipattis," (fried bread), the mounting of a new prayer flag, burning incense, villagers receiving blessings from their elders, gambling and cardplaying activities traditionally played on Losar; Yung,Buddhist ceremony where lamas read sacred texts in honor of Buddha's birthday; prostrations at Buddhist shrine. Footage of subsistance activities include: digging compost; the "Lari" system of farming where family and friends exchange help in reaping the crops; various kinds of work associated with transhumant zomo herds including the collection of fodder, milking and cheese making; building a new roof on a cow shed; women using sheeps wool to weave material for Sherpa jackets; men plowing fields using two bulls; cutting firewood and stockpiling for upcoming year. Footage relating to the seasons and climate include: snowball fights, children building snowmen, the seasonal migration to to lower winter pastures.
Landscape and wildlife shots include the Yangrigang mountain where goddess Amachabriagi dwells across from Helembu valley, scenes of Ganesh Himal on the edge of Kathmandu valley, plateau farming, Rhesus monkeys around village temple, scenes of village fields in snow. Other events featured included: men congretating at a village forum to discuss issues such as the coming of electricity to Melemchi; picnic for the dedication of a new school; the distilling of Sherpa beer (chang) to make liquor (rakshi); rope handmade from nettle fibers; male sheep sold at Dasain festival; men using two-man saw to cut planks for new house. Also featured is a traditional Sherpa marriage "gapte kyungen" involving symbolic bride capture followed by the wedding celebration. Various interviews with Melemchi men and women with different social experiences and generational backgrounds included. Collection is annotated by John Bishop, documentary filmmaker, Naomi Bishop, anthropologist, John Homiak, Human Studies Film Archives, and Nogabu, cultural informant from Melemchi. Footage complements [Melemchi Village, 1986].
Repository Loc.
Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Museum Support Center, Suitland, MD
Language and culture
Temples--prayer wheels
Barley--method of harvest
Animal husbandry--milking--cows
Seances--spirit mediums--ritual
Mediums--ritual--spirit communication
Spirits--mediums--communication with
Ritual--spirit mediums--seances
Chanting--as part of ritual
Musical instruments--drums--cymbals--horns--bells
Food preparation--churning butter--cheese
Animal sacrifice--as part of ritual
Mills--grinding flour--water driven
Pastoral activities--herding--miling--grazing
Bells--for keeping birds from crops
Quarrying--boulders--for building stones
Mortuary practices--pallequin--procession--cremation
Bread--ceremonial Nara bread--gompa
Flags--prayer flags--raising of
Potatoes--cultivation of
Human Studies Film Archives
Bishop, John filmmaker
Bishop, Naomi
Physical description
13,000 feet (6 hours 5 minutes) sound/silent color film/video
Nepal, Helambu Valley
Motion pictures (visual works)
Collection descriptions
Local number
HSFA 1990.5.1
Helambu Valley