The road and the Tamang borderland

Ben Campbell is an anthropologist with the University of Durham and a longtime visitor to Nepal. In 2007, he spent time talking with and filming villagers living in the harsh geography of the Trisuli River in Rasuwa district. Although an area with a long and important history of trade between the Tibetan plateau and the region's South, border trade has been extremely limited in recent decades. At a price of some NPR 1.3 billion, however, the Chinese government has helped put up a 17-km road from the Nepali midhills up to the Tibetan border. That road opened in December 2009. Campbell recently spoke with Himal's sister organisation Film South Asia about his experience in making the documentary, The Way of the Road, and the villagers' aspirations and anxieties.

As an anthropologist, why did you decide to take on the role of filmmaker to explore the issue of the new road in Rasuwa?

This is the second film I have made in collaboration with my brother, Cosmo, who is a cameraman. Our first film was also based in Nepal – an homage to the bombo [shaman], who helped me to understand the ethnic Tamang-speaking people's special relationships with the non-human world. Shamanic Pilgrimage to Gosainkund followed a bombo and villagers over several days going up to the holy lake of the area, and it has a peak moment where the bombo calls out to the gods and goddesses of the mountain for protection, care and good fortune. That scene never fails to move me to the core.

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Himal Southasian