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Exhibition explores the fascinating lives of the female divers of Jeju in South Korea
Kim Julja, Dodu Jeju 2013 ® Hyung S. Kim 2013.

GREENWICH.- This March 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 April 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. The women dive for up to seven hours a day and range in age from 11 to over 60 years old.

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.

The National Maritime Museum will also be hosting Women Making Waves on Saturday 11 March, a one day festival featuring trails, workshops and performances, celebrating the fascinating stories of women who made their mark on British and global maritime history.

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