'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.

Descent into the Deep

Descent into the Deep

36 x 164 in / 92 x 417 cm Silk Organza Layers. Applique. Hand sewn.

Grannies of the Sea

Grannies of the Sea

30 x 219 in / 76 x 557 cm Hand-dyed Jeju Persimmon Silk, organza, net. Photo transfer on lutrador. Hand sewn.

Family/Formidable Women

Family/Formidable Women

Front Side: Formidable Women - FAMILY 36 x 164 in / 92 x 417 cm Korean ramie & silk. Photo transfer on silk. Hand sewn.

Survival/Formidable Women

Survival/Formidable Women

Reverse Side: Formidable Women - SURVIVAL 36 x 164 in / 92 x 417 cm Korean ramie & silk. Photo transfer on silk. Hand sewn.

1. Detail - DESCENT INTO THE DEEP. Homage to Haenyeo
Surfacing for air
Detail. JEJU GRANNIES OF THE SEA - Homage to Haenyeo copy 2.KB
Homeward bound
Conversation
Fortitude

© 2018 by Leonie Castelino

1. Detail - DESCENT INTO THE DEEP. Homage to Haenyeo

DESCENT INTO THE DEEP. Homage to Haenyeo Silk Organza