Haenyeo: Women Of The Sea
National Maritime Museum
Hung S Kim
Mikhail Karikis, Heeyoung Koh & Hyung S Kim
Haenyeo: Women Of The Sea
National Maritime Museum
Greenwich London 2017
"This March 2017 join the National Maritime Museum as it celebrates the start of Women’s History Month with the opening of Haenyeo: Women of the Sea, an exhibition exploring the fascinating lives of the female divers of Jeju in South Korea.
Running from 5 March–1 June 2017, the fascinating story of haenyeo and their community is told from two different perspectives, through life-size photographic portraits taken by Hyung S. Kim and SeaWomen, a video and sound installation by Mikhail Karikis. Both components of the exhibition celebrate the unique culture of haenyeo, who for centuries have harvested seafood from the ocean without any diving apparatus." National Maritime Museum Press Release.
Hyung S Kim
"Join the National Maritime Museum as it celebrates the start of Women’s History Month with the opening of Haenyeo: Women of the Sea, an exhibition exploring the fascinating lives of the female divers of Jeju in South Korea.
Running from Sunday 5th March to Saturday 1st April, the fascinating story of haenyeo and their community is told from two different perspectives, through life-size photographic portraits taken by Hyung S. Kim, and SeaWomen, a video and sound installation by Mikhail Karikis. Both components of the exhibition celebrate the unique culture of haenyeo, who for centuries have harvested seafood from the ocean without any diving apparatus. The women dive for up to seven hours a day and range in age from 11 to over 70 years.
The inspiration for Kim’s series of portraits stems from his visit to Jeju Island in 2012, where he was captivated by the haenyeo and the power, resilience and unique physical performance used in their daily lives. He chose to photograph them in their most natural state, showing the divers emerging from the sea, exhausted and wet after the long hours spent diving. The photographs are intended to show the haenyeo, not as relics, nor trophies, but as beautiful and strong portraits of working women.
Karikis came across the divers, searching for seafood and pearls, during his residency on the island of Jeju. Taken aback by the unique way the haenyeo communicate with one another, his video and sound installation captures the sonic signature of the community of divers. Karikis has also created watercolour portraits, painted whilst holding his breath in empathy with their working conditions. Both artists’ work is an insight into the culture of the Jeju divers, who have contributed to the advancement of women’s status within their community, whilst promoting environmental sustainability with their eco-friendly fishing methods.
Haenyeo: Women of the Sea will open to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday 5th March. Visitors can also view the documentary film Breathing Underwater about haenyeo on Tuesday 7th March, followed by a discussion with the artist." - Caroline King
"Feminist quiz question of the day: Where in the world has a society existed since the 17th century in which women do all the work and the men take care of home and childcare? Google “haenyeo divers” and you’ll find that just such an impressive cultural economy exists in the Jeju coastal area of South Korea, where the “Amazons of Asia” dive for valuable shellfish without breathing apparatuses well into their eighties. Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton discovered this at a traveling photography exhibition at London’s National Maritime Museum last year. “They are just so incredibly strong, and we found it fascinating to look at how they dress to dive—with their scuba equipment, but feminizing it with layers of lace blouses or other bits of clothing from their wardrobes.” As parents raising two daughters, the designers want to immerse their children in the belief that gender equality is a right. After deep reading around the haenyeo community, they made the obvious connection with the state of mother nature. The makings of a collection that centered on eco-feminism was born.
With prior knowledge of this research background, you could pick out the references: the tight hoods, scuba fabric parkas and pencil skirts, trails of fishnet, bags manifested as buoys, marine blues, shimmery mother-of-pearl and gold sequins, and “seaweed”-sprouting shoes. Had you not read up? You’d see Preen by Thornton Bregazzi working its way through its signature repertoire of florals and dippy-hemmed dresses, with some Asian-appropriated padded brocade coats, fringed with goat hair.
Where does that leave us? The submerged meanings are important to these designers—they’ve gotten into the habit of leaving photographs of stacks of their reading matter on benches at their shows. Still, plunging into eco-waters and matters of cultural appropriation will inevitably raise many questions today." Sarah Mower Vogue
Mikhail Karikis & Hung S Kim
Waugh Office was established in 2011 by Julia Waugh, and Mark Waugh,
a hybrid platform curating exhibitions, events and publications internationally.