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Photography: Digital, colour on Paper.
Photographed underwater, she hangs weightless, deep in the ocean, on the threshold of becoming lost in the black water or rising to the surface to return to the real world. Inspired by the diving women of South Korea this series explores the relationship that these women have with the oceans during a period of rapid ecological change.
The haenyeo are part of a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter for a 1000 years. They are the Korean ‘mermaids’, of Jeju Island who venture into frigid depths of up to 20 meters without any breathing equipment, braving the dangers of the ocean, as they scour the seabed for food. The haenyeo believe we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but that we borrow it from our children.
One of twelve images from the series 'Flowers for Jeju: The Last Mermaids.' Each limited edition is signed and numbered by the artist and printed on archival, heavy weight, premium matt paper. It is then carefully packed and dispatched with the corresponding certificate that guarantees the print is a limited artwork only available at the editions stated. The certificate can be attached to the back of the print once framed.
Since releasing this series in 2017 the images have appeared in various printed and online magazines as well as inspiring the revered Korean translator and writer, Janet Hong, to produce the following narrative to accompany the work.
Birth by Janet Hong
Breath. Knife. Dive. Gum. Pill.
These the first words you lisped, as though the sea needed to mark you, make sure whose you were. Seventeen, you didn’t need the pills for the sickness that eventually grips us all, not yet. Not ever.
You were like an exquisite young fish, wetsuit gleaming like scales, the limits of your lungs untested. A child of the sea. Even to us old-timers, what you were was clear—destined.
I know now the dangers of using a word like “destined.” But then, we only saw how you moved your keen fingers along the jagged rifts, the flash of your sickle, your bright sumbisori whistle as you rose back up to this world.
Beware of bonanzas! An unusually large abalone, an exceptional harvest, can mean only one thing. That day, the same story with you. You collected so much seaweed your friends envied you.
We waited and waited. My entire life passed by on that rocky shore I had walked a thousand times, on the very shore where you, as a baby, had slept in a basket, waiting for the milk from my breasts, milk that tasted of the salty sea, while I shivered in the wind, my hair and cotton mulot dripping.
After the last diver came out and still no sign of you, we thrust our bodies back into the water. We scoured the seabed like ones crazed, finally staggering out into the darkness. The wind whipped us for our empty hands.
It was the next morning you returned to us, on the same waves that had fed and clothed and carried this aging daughter and so many before. Was it then, as you swam in my waters those nine months, that the sea claimed you as its own?
Your orange float nodded at your side, a mute witness to our awful grief, as we untangled the seaweed from your limbs. Who knew you would rise up despite the lead weights? Who knew to look for you on this side of the world?
The winter morning sun lit your motionless body, and you went up in flames, like some mystic bird, rising from the ashes.
Size: 44.1 W x 44.1 H x 0.1 in
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