Haenyeo: Women of the Sea at the National Maritime Museum

This March join the National Maritime Museum as it celebrates the start of Women’s History Month with the opening of Haenyeo: Women of the Sea, an exhibition exploring the fascinating lives of the female divers of Jeju in South Korea.

Running from 5 March–1 April 2017, the fascinating story of haenyeo and their community is told from two different perspectives, through life-size photographic portraits taken by Hyung S. Kim and SeaWomen, a video and sound installation by Mikhail Karikis. Both components of the exhibition celebrate the unique culture of haenyeo, who for centuries have harvested seafood from the ocean without any diving apparatus. The women dive for up to seven hours a day and range in age from 11 to over 60 years old.

The inspiration for Kim’s series of portraits stems from his visit to Jeju Island in 2012, where he was captivated by the haenyeo and the power, resilience and unique physical performance used in their daily lives. He chose to photograph them in their most natural state, showing the divers emerging from the sea, exhausted and wet after the long hours spent diving. The photographs are intended to show the haenyeo, not as relics, nor trophies, but as beautiful and strong portraits of working women.

Karikis came across the divers, searching for seafood and pearls during his residency on the island of Jeju. Taken aback by the unique way the haenyeo communicate with one another, his video and sound installation captures the sonic signature of the community of divers. Karikis has also created watercolour portraits painted whilst holding his breath in empathy with their working conditions.

Both artists’ work is an insight into the culture of the Jeju divers, who have contributed to the advancement of women’s status within their community, whilst promoting environmental sustainability with their eco-friendly fishing methods.

Haenyeo: Women of the Sea will open to the public with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday 5 March. Visitors can also view the documentary film ‘Breathing Underwater’ directed by Heeyoung Koh about Haenyeo on Tuesday 7 March, followed by a discussion with the artist.

The National Maritime Museum will also be hosting Women Making Waves on Saturday 11 March, a one day festival featuring trails, workshops and performances, celebrating the fascinating stories of women who made their mark on British and global maritime history.

The show's curator was Soo Cho and it was produced by Waugh Office.

Banner image: Yun Chunkum, Hamo Jeju 2014 and Kim Julja, Dodu Jeju 2013 (detail) © Hyung S. Kim 2013

Event details

Opening ceremony

Be the first to see the Haenyeo: Women of the Sea exhibition with our ribbon cutting ceremony.

Date: Sunday 5 March 2017
Time: 15.00
Venue: The Great Map
Admission: Free entry
Age: Suitable for all ages

Documentary film

Visit the National Maritime Museum for the screening of Breathing Underwater, a documentary directed by Heeyoung Koh exploring the unique lives of the haenyeo community, followed by a discussion with the artist.

Date: Tuesday 7 March 2017
Time: 17.30
Venue: Lecture Theatre
Admission: Free entry
Age: Suitable for all ages

Women’s History Month Event Details

Women Making Waves

Join the National Maritime Museum for Women Making Waves, a one day festival featuring trails, workshops and performances celebrating those amazing women who made waves in British and global history.

Date: 11 March 2017
Time: 12.00 – 15:00
Venue: National Maritime Museum, Ground floor, Lecture Theatre
Admission: Free entry
Age: Suitable for all ages

The National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich, Queen’s House and Cutty Sark operate under the banner of Royal Museums Greenwich.

The National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, Royal Observatory Greenwich and Cutty Sark are open daily 10.00‑17.00 (last admission 16.30). Cutty Sark’s opening times may be subject to change, please see website for details www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark.

General admission to National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House are free. All events included here are free of charge to all visitors unless stated. Admission prices for the Royal Observatory Greenwich, Peter Harrison Planetarium and Cutty Sark, as well as Museum special exhibitions can be found online at www.rmg.co.uk/visit

The Museum is located a short walk from the Cutty Sark DLR, and Maze Hill and Greenwich train stations. The closest tube stations are North Greenwich (to change to local buses) and Canary Wharf (to change to DLR), both on the Jubilee line.

For updated information prior to visit please visit our web site: www.rmg.co.uk or phone 020 8858 4422.


Information and images

For further information or images please contact:

Royal Museums Greenwich Press Office

Tel: 020 8312 6789/6545/6790 | 07960 509802

Email: press@rmg.co.uk