Haenyeo: the sea women of Jeju Island

Opens 07-05-2021,  closes 06-06-2021

Bond Store Basement


Haenyeo: the sea women of Jeju Island is a photographic exhibition on show in the Bond Store Basement at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), showcasing a remarkable group of women from South Korea.

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 the country.

Today, the Haenyeo are mostly aged over 60, with some in their 80s. Over many lifetimes they have been free diving 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.

A touring exhibition produced by the Australian National Maritime Museum and the Korean Cultural Centre Australia. 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.

Image details: (L) Kim Sanok Hamo, Jeju, 2014; (R) Kim Jungja Udo, Jeju, 2016. Photographer/Artist: Hyungsun Kim. Courtesy the artist and the Korean Cultural Centre Australia.