The Korean Cultural Centre (KCC) Australia presents an exhibition ‘Haenyeo: the sea women of Jeju Island’ in collaboration with the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.
Celebrating a community of women divers known as Haenyeo, or sea women, of Jeju Island off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, the exhibition showcases the series of powerful life-size portraits by the Korean artist Hyungsun Kim.
The sea women of Jeju are grandmothers, mothers and daughters mostly aged over 60, with some in their 80s. They free-dive to 20-metre depths for up to two minutes, for hours at a time to fill their net bags with sea cucumber, urchins, seaweed and abalone to feed their communities and to trade and sell, as they have for centuries. The unique cultural practice of the Jeju Haenyeo was inscribed on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016.
Hyungsun Kim’s portraits show these women divers as more than just a symbol of an ancient practice; their incredible lives in the sea are writ in every line and surface as each woman confronts the photographer’s lens after coming in from a dive, in a makeshift-sheeted studio assembled on the shore.
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