The Mother of the sea

Mijoo Kim

2014 - Ongoing

South Korea

I have been interested in not only exploring a variety of human lives, but I aspire to talk about the cultural work of looking as well. The project of ‘The Mother of the Sea,’ came from below sea level. The subjects reflected in my work are called “Haenyo, literally meaning “sea women” in Korean. These women have a century-old history of making their own living by catching oysters, sea cucumbers, abalones, sea urchins, and squids. They hold their breaths for over two minutes and dive to depth of twenty meters without using any diving equipment.

My subjects were the Haenyos female divers in Korea. Haenyos recognize the symbol of Korean culture, the diving a s the cultural heritage and Korean's representative women's culture as well. The reason that I had been interested in that their daily life is a symbolic discourse through my works. These women divers are carrying on a Korean legacy as having lifelong profession. I hope to share not only their beauty as women, but also their courage and their tenacity in facing difficulties during their lives.

Being a Haenyo is certainly not meant to be for the weak; hence the saying in Korea, “Haenyos do the work of the dead in the land of the living.” The Mother of the Sea Series captures the work and portrait of haenyos to express how I view this job.

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