“I can’t tell you what it looks like, but I know it when I see it … and that’s not it.”
How many times have you heard someone say that about a thing they’re looking for, often something they’ve asked you to help them find, but they’re frustratingly unable to tell you what it looks just, settling for just rejecting anything you bring and ask, “Is this it?” That seems to be the situation in Nepal, where the government’s Visit Yeti Year secretariat (department) spent taxpayer rupees on Yeti statues to attract visitors interested in the legendary/mythical creature said to roam the Himalayas. Now, people who couldn’t give the secretariat any photos of a Yeti are upset because the statues look more like a giant white furless (you read that right) Sumo wrestler. Does Bigfoot have this problem?
"In folk tales, the yeti has been described as a big monkey-like creature. However, the recent logo depicts it as a sumo wrestler. This does not at all match with the mythical character that has been described in many folk tales."
In an interview with the BBC, Ram Kumar Pandey, a prominent Nepali geographer, reiterated the problem. Although the Yeti is mythical, this isn’t it. Then again, Pandey is in no position to be vague on what a Yeti looks like – he’s written a series of books about the creature and he’s the one who brought up “monkey-like” – which implies fur-covered. As expected, the Yeti Art Committee which builds the statues, is defending its Sumo looks as “creative freedom” – a good artsy answer. The committee is probably also defending the fact that it pays 500,000 rupees ($4,414) apiece for the seven-foot-tall Yeti-Sumo statues (see them here), which are supposed to be placed all over the country with the slogan, “Visit Nepal 2020.”
It gets worse.
Graffiti artists are decorating the Yeti statues with images of gods and goddess. One in Durbar square in Basantapur had images painted on the back and front of the living goddess Kumari. As a result, religious Buddhists and Hindus are worshiping the figure, causing resentment and confusion. Even worse, some people seem to just be worshiping the Yeti. As a result, officials have been painting the Yeti statues to cover the religious images – another expense. All if this fighting and confusion is not what Visit Nepal Year co-coordinator Prem Prabhat Gurung had in mind.
"Our aim is to produce the yeti as an emblem of peace, reconciliation and humility rather than a fear-creating feature. People around the world should not only know Nepal as the land of Everest or Lord Buddha or Gurkha. The yeti can represent our uniqueness as well."
Unfortunately, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, the creator of the controversial design, piped in.
"I did not make yeti's sketch by reading any book. On the basis of stories that I heard in my childhood, and having Lord Buddha at the back of my mind, I made the design."
That did it. This week, the government decided to remove all of the giant fiberglass Yeti/Sumo statues and end the program. Finally all the sculptures, built with fiberglass and which cost about half a million Nepalese rupees (about 3,980 euros) each, were removed.
Can’t Yeti-lovers all just get along? We don’t have this problem in the U.S., where Bigfoot statues are everywhere, Bigfoot has had comical depictions in movies and no one seemed to complain about the commercials using Bigfoot to sell snack. None of those look anything like the mythical cryptid that is also often described as a “big monkey-like creature.”
Would Bigfoot be offended if it were depicted as a furless Sumo wrestler? How about Hulk Hogan? Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?
“I can’t tell you what I look like, but I know me when I see me … and that’s not me!”