'HOMAGE TO HAENYEO'
2018 KOREA BOJAGI FORUM
Chojun Textile & Quilt Art Museum
Seoul, South Korea
An Ode to the unsung glory of Women
A Celebration of the Strength of the Feminine
The stories of the Haenyeo resonate deeply within me. They are universal. Women implicitly identify and understand. Men have gratitude. Grandmothers, Mothers, Sisters, Daughters have and continue to provide the next generation freedom to seek a better way of life.
This BOJAGI Installation of Four Works of Art is a tribute to the power of the feminine. A social commentary on the unsung glory of life experiences, challenges surmounted, influence and cohesion women exercise in our social fabric, economy and freedom. Every feminine wrinkle is a mark of beauty, which commands respect and pride.
Bojagi Installation: Four stories of the Haenyeo
Haenyeo are women divers unique to the volcanic black rocky, windy Island of Jeju in South Korea. For generations these formidable and courageous women created an economy harvesting food from the seabed. Culture evolves with access to education and technology. Economies evolve, so do Haenyeo. Their population is dwindling, and this life style, economy and traditions will soon be an era of the past. In 2016, UNESCO listed the Culture of Jeju Haenyeo as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
'DESCENT INTO THE DEEP' - a Haenyeo free diving to the seafloor with just a mask, a lead belt, flippers, a knife and a net. These women plunge 50 feet and can hold their breath for 2 to 3 minutes. It is a dangerous occupation that is now dying. In 2014, I met 78, 79 and 80-year old Haenyeo who still dive daily. 98% of Haenyeo are over age 50. Hence the name, 'Grannies of the Sea'.
'JEJU GRANNIES OF THE SEA' visually depicts a day in the life of the Haenyeo. Repeated free dives in search of seafood and seaweed. Harvest is pooled, proceeds shared, no accidents celebrated. The Aging community looks out for each other to survive a difficult and dangerous life. They encourage their daughters to seek education and alternate careers elsewhere.
'FORMIDABLE WOMEN' visually depicts two facets of their lives: FAMILY & SURVIVAL on each side of this Bojagi.
1. The FRONT side: 'FAMILY' is a window into their home and family life. A conversation with a ‘Granny’ regarding ancestors, tradition, occupation and health hazards. They market and financially manage their earnings. They save to educate their children. They dream for their children to discover a better life elsewhere. For these Grannies who face health hazards, loneliness and loss is the price they pay for their hopes for education and opportunities for their loved ones.
2. The REVERSE side: 'SURVIVAL' is about generations eking a harsh living on a beautiful island known for its wind, volcanic rock and women - the Haenyeo. The men fish and farm. To augment their coffers, Haenyeo leave their home and children in Jeju Island annually for several months to dive elsewhere - usually Japan. They do not wish this lonely and hazardous life for their daughters. The sorrow and hardship of being absentee mothers is a burden that they strongly believe will change with education.