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  • Japan’s sea lions


    Jörg Markowitsch

    Anti-stereotypical professions: Ama-San and Haenyo ─ apnoea divers in Japan and Korea

    Headlines from Japan con­cer­ning the world of work usually surprise us with tech­no­lo­gi­cal inno­va­tions such as the recent testing of care robots. The special rela­ti­ons­hip of the Japanese to tra­di­tio­nal pro­fes­si­ons, on the other hand, is often relegated to museum curio­si­ties. Por­tu­gue­se filmmaker Cláudia Varejão has created a cinematic monument in this sense with Ama-San (“sea women”) for the disap­pearing Japanese apnoea divers. The Korean coun­ter­part to this is the Haenyo (“sea women”), who right­ful­ly made it onto the UNESCO list of imma­te­ri­al world cultural heritage. Women who have been diving together for genera­ti­ons for shellfish, crustace­ans and shells to support their families.

    From a Western point of view, this occup­a­tio­nal group is quite excep­tio­nal. It consists almost exclu­si­ve­ly of women who are engaged in an activity that for thousands of years in the rest of the world was reserved for men. These women have promoted female entre­pre­neurs­hip, female employ­ment and eman­ci­pa­ti­on in an extremely patri­ar­chal society, for example by orga­ni­sing them­sel­ves into trade unions. Female apnoea divers today have an average age of over 60 years, in a job that is generally clas­si­fied as hard work. And asto­nis­hin­gly, until the advent of Western tourism in the 1950s, they were doing their job naked. Admit­ted­ly, before the invention of wetsuits, this cha­rac­te­ris­tic had mainly practical reasons. Espe­cial­ly the latter aspect of this pro­fes­si­on was of interest to many Western hobby eth­no­graph­ers, which, by the way, was aes­the­ti­cal­ly excel­lent­ly docu­men­ted by the nude pho­to­gra­pher Yoshiyuki Iwasewe (1904 — 2001). It may be assumed that it is precisely for this reason that early film record­ings of this sup­po­sed­ly exotic and seemingly erotic pro­fes­si­on exist.

    The film by Varejão accom­pa­nies the everyday life of three — at least up to the neck in neoprene — divers of different genera­ti­ons in the style of ‘Direct Cinema’. Varejão herself appro­pria­te­ly calls her film “eth­no­fic­tion”.

    Refe­ren­ces:
    Luke, Anthony (2011). Pho­to­gra­pher Iwase Yoshi­yu­ki’s Ama Divers
    Suzuki, Krys (2019). Ama-San: The Culture and History of Japan’s Female Free Divers

    Cláudia Varejão, Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Trailer  

    Historical Movie, Ama-San, 3min 

    Ama-San in "La Donna Nel Mundo", 1963, 2min 

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Tags

    Japan’s sea lions

    Jörg Markowitsch

    Anti-stereotypical professions: Ama-San and Haenyo ─ apnoea divers in Japan and Korea

    Headlines from Japan con­cer­ning the world of work usually surprise us with tech­no­lo­gi­cal inno­va­tions such as the recent testing of care robots. The special rela­ti­ons­hip of the Japanese to tra­di­tio­nal pro­fes­si­ons, on the other hand, is often relegated to museum curio­si­ties. Por­tu­gue­se filmmaker Cláudia Varejão has created a cinematic monument in this sense with Ama-San (“sea women”) for the disap­pearing Japanese apnoea divers. The Korean coun­ter­part to this is the Haenyo (“sea women”), who right­ful­ly made it onto the UNESCO list of imma­te­ri­al world cultural heritage. Women who have been diving together for genera­ti­ons for shellfish, crustace­ans and shells to support their families.

    From a Western point of view, this occup­a­tio­nal group is quite excep­tio­nal. It consists almost exclu­si­ve­ly of women who are engaged in an activity that for thousands of years in the rest of the world was reserved for men. These women have promoted female entre­pre­neurs­hip, female employ­ment and eman­ci­pa­ti­on in an extremely patri­ar­chal society, for example by orga­ni­sing them­sel­ves into trade unions. Female apnoea divers today have an average age of over 60 years, in a job that is generally clas­si­fied as hard work. And asto­nis­hin­gly, until the advent of Western tourism in the 1950s, they were doing their job naked. Admit­ted­ly, before the invention of wetsuits, this cha­rac­te­ris­tic had mainly practical reasons. Espe­cial­ly the latter aspect of this pro­fes­si­on was of interest to many Western hobby eth­no­graph­ers, which, by the way, was aes­the­ti­cal­ly excel­lent­ly docu­men­ted by the nude pho­to­gra­pher Yoshiyuki Iwasewe (1904 — 2001). It may be assumed that it is precisely for this reason that early film record­ings of this sup­po­sed­ly exotic and seemingly erotic pro­fes­si­on exist.

    The film by Varejão accom­pa­nies the everyday life of three — at least up to the neck in neoprene — divers of different genera­ti­ons in the style of ‘Direct Cinema’. Varejão herself appro­pria­te­ly calls her film “eth­no­fic­tion”.

    Refe­ren­ces:
    Luke, Anthony (2011). Pho­to­gra­pher Iwase Yoshi­yu­ki’s Ama Divers
    Suzuki, Krys (2019). Ama-San: The Culture and History of Japan’s Female Free Divers

    Cláudia Varejão, Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Trailer

    Historical Movie, Ama-San, 3min

    Ama-San in "La Donna Nel Mundo", 1963, 2min

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Ama-San, Portugal 2016, Still

    Tags


    Fischli and Weiss as DIY

    Fischli and Weiss as DIY

    A young Youtuber has presumably unwittingly made a remake of Fischli and Weiss' famous art video "The Way Things Go" (1987), raising interesting questions about the relationship between art, professional craft and DIY.

    Fitness to work?

    Fitness to work?

    Under the topos ‘health’, a comprehensive optimization and enhancement logic is implanted into people. Fitness is one of several influencing factors in establishing innovative, exceptional and performative entrepreneur of oneself.

    Erwin and Elvira, the butcher

    Erwin and Elvira, the butcher

    Fassbinder's outstanding melodrama "In a Year of 13 Moons" (1978) is a consistently topical contribution to today's identity politics debate and a forceful exclamation mark for anti-stereotypical professions.

    The old fear of the end of new work itself

    The old fear of the end of new work itself

    We all look forward to the end of the working day, but not the end of work itself. The fear of automation and the end of work is an old topos, as evidenced by industrial films from the 1950s.

    Superpowers on the job

    Super­powers on the job

    What to do with superhuman abilities on the job? Superheroes don't give much information on this. A troll in one of the most extraordinary Swedish films of recent years (Border, 2018), on the other hand does.

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    When pictures of economy went into motion

    A new book introduces us to the important epistemologist Michael Polanyi as a didactician of economics and recalls his educational film "Unemployment and Money" (1940), which is still worth seeing today.

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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.