By Gopal Sharma (Reuters/Katmandu)
Published in the Jakarta Post November 27, 2012
Fifteen Nepali artists were closeted for a month with a heap of 1.5 tons of trash picked up from Mount Everest. When they emerged, they had transformed the litter into art.
The 75 sculptures, including one of a yak amd another of wind chimes, were made from empty oxygen bottles, gas canisters, food cans, torn tents, ropes, crampoons, boots, plates, twisted aluminium ladders and torn plastic nags dumped by climbers over decades on the slopes of the world’s highest mountain.
Kripa Rana Shahi, director of art group Da Mind Tree, said the sculpting – and a resulting recent exhibition in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu – was aimed at spreading awareness about keeping Mt. Everest clean.
“Everest is our crown jewel in the world” Shahi said.
“We should not take it for granted. The amount of trash there is damaging our pride”.
Nearly 4000 people have climbed the 8,850 meter high Mt. Everest, many of them several times, since it was first scaled by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953.
Although climbers need to deposit US$4,000 with the Government, which is refunded only after they provide proof of having brought garbage generated by them from the mountain, activists say effective monitoring is difficult.
Climbers returning from the mountain say its slopes are littered with trash that is buried under snow during the winter and emerges in the summer when the snow melts.
The trash used in the artworks was picked up from the mountain by Sherpa climbers in 2011 and earlier this year and carried down by porters and trains of long-haired yaks.
The yaks were commemorated in one work. For another, empty oxygen cylinders were mounted on a metal frame to make Buddhist prayer wheels.
Another, by wall painter Krishna Bahadur Thing, is a Tibetan mandala painting showing the location of Mt. Everest in the universe – made by sticking yellow, blue, whites pieces of discarded beer, food cans and other metals on the round board.
Visitors said they were amazed at the way waste products turned into useful items.
“It shows that anything can be utilized in an artistic way and nothing goes to waste in art” said 18-year-old fine art student Siddhartha Pudasaini.
The art is on sale for prices from $15 to$2,300, with part of the proceed going to the artists and the rest to the Everest Summiteers’ Association (ESA), which sponsored the collection of garbage from the mountain, organizers said.
“Garbage on Everest is shameful. We are trying to turn it into gold here”, ESA Chief Wangchu Sherpa told Reuters.