Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

ANMM Haenyeo (sea women) exhibition

Ilchulbong and Haenyeo, photographer Yang Paeng-chul, Winner of the Silver Prize, the 4th of the Jeju International Photo Contest, 2012. Image courtesy the photographer and Jeju Special Self-Governing Province.

Photographic exhibition celebrating a community of women divers, Australian National Maritime Museum, April 2021

Hyungsun Kim’s powerful portraits celebrate a community of women divers known as Haenyeo (sea women), who harvest the seas sustainably around Jeju Island, off the southern tip of South Korea.

Today, the Haenyeo are mostly aged over 60, with some in their 80s. Over many lifetimes they have been freediving for conch, sea cucumber, urchins, abalone, and seaweed – in icy, warm, calm, and treacherous waters.

It is dangerous, physical work, as the Haenyeo do not use a snorkel or air tank. They dive to 20-metre depths holding their breaths for up to two minutes, often for hours at a time. Girls and young women train with their elders for years before they reach sanggun senior status.

The artist, Hyungsun Kim shows the women as more than 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 on the shoreline.

Touring exhibition produced by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Korean Cultural Centre Australia with assistance from the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. It has been supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Republic of Korea in 2021.

Korean Cultural Centre Australia logo  Jeju Special Self-Governing Province logo
 Korean Cultural Centre AU Jeju Special Self-Governing Province


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