The film “Himalayan Herders” portrayed mountain pastoralists from Himalaya. This movie covered many points on the lifestyle of these indigenous people. This documentary styled film covers many aspects of ethnography. This ranges from religion, to death ceremonies. This video did a very good job of portraying these people and it was very ethnographic about it. As far as ethnography is concerned, this film is full of it. This group of people is considered pastoralists. This means that they like to remain in one area. Also, they are farmers and herders.
An example of this is how potatoes are the staple of their diet. An example of how they are herders includes how they raise Zomo, which are cows in combination with yaks. This is because theses pastoralists use the milk of a cow for many things but live at higher altitudes, which yaks can handle. There is definitely a division of labor among the genders. The women are responsible for tending to the Zomo, milking them and making butter from the milk. The women also have help from the children. While the children are helping, they are also learning how to tend the Zomo for future responsibilities.
Essentially the only responsibility the men have in regards to the Zomo is taking them out to feed, while the women have to take the time to milk them, churn butter, and make cheese. Something else that men are responsible for however includes creating objects and art out of color dyed butter for a ceremony called the Nara. Men also have the responsibility of performing the rituals at the Nara. Another aspect of pastoralist culture covered here was their economic system. For a while, the mountain pastoralists of the Himalayas didn’t use a coin or paper form of currency. More often than not, grain was considered currency.
Grain could be traded for tools and useful things for the group. More recently however, coin currency has been used. Coin currency can be traded for sheep and vica-versa. Sheep are another important part of their lives. Sheep were of course used for their wool and the women had the responsibility to turn the wool into textiles to be worn or for other uses. The wool was turned into a yarn like string by hand, by tightening it up. After that, the women used a series of sticks and intricately created fabric which was its useable form. The point of view of this film is in the form of a narrator.
A narrator educates the viewers on the day to day lives of these people with the occasional interview-style scene which would include an individual from this particular society speaking about an aspect of it. With this style, we get to hear about what the people within the group think and how they feel about certain topics. I don’t believe the narrator is biased because it seems to me that they have done a lot of studying this society and instead of giving opinions, is giving generalizations and genuine facts. I believe that the people that where studied would generally give us the same information the narrator provided.
This is because, as stated above, the narrator is essentially just sticking to the facts and presenting to us in the same way the individuals in the group would. If anything, this film shows empathy. The narrator shows no sign of feeling sorry for this group when he talks and is just presenting the information for us to perceive. The narrator seems to have an understanding of the culture and does not show resentment in the least bit. After watching the film, I don’t dislike the group either; however, I also wouldn’t say I admire them. I feel indifferent towards them.
They are going about their lives, surviving the way they know how to and the way that was taught to them which is respectful. It would be very easy for them to just stop and let technology do everything for them like we do here but they carry on living simple lives. In all honesty, I suppose I feel respect for them. I believe it would be fantastic to live a simple life and really only have to worry about what daily tasks lie ahead of you. Although it would be nice, it would also be nearly impossible for someone in our culture such as me to just drop everything and go move into a mountain.
This culture is honestly not a lot like my own. In my society we shop in grocery stores whereas in this culture they basically make everything they use from scratch. It’s hard to find a similarity except a little bit in the death ceremony. In the death ceremony, the dead is put into a wooden box where no spirits can enter. When someone in America is buried, this is also done in a wooden box but a much more intricate one. The school system is also much different. There is barely a school system there. If I’m not mistaken, a school system is a very new concept for them where here, school is life.
In conclusion, this film did a great job of describing the mountain pastoralists of the Himalayas. It was very ethnographic and covered many aspects of their culture. The narrator also did not appear to have any biases. That is a huge part of learning about a society. It is always best to have a narrator that just relays information to you and then cut to a scene of an individual within the group talking about it. That way, we could get a better scope of their lives. All in all, this film did a great job educating everyone who has viewed it about the life and culture of these specific pastoralists.
Courtney from Study Moose
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