‘Human Seascape’ comes to UP Diliman

By Rizza Edu / Special to the BusinessMirror

‘TRY to imagine the world or look at the world from the sea, not from the land.” Japanese artist Terue Yamauchi brought her years-long exploration of maritime culture, Human Seascape, to the Bulwagan ng Dangal in the University of the Philippines Diliman, where it can be viewed until May 18.

The art project, which consists of video work, documents, photographs and drawings, started in 2011, when Yamauchi came across a 60-year-old photo of two Japanese female divers, naked. Since then, she was lured into their world and explored the life culture of female free divers in Japan, called “Ama,” and in Jeju, Korea where they’re called “Jamu-su” or “Haenyeo.”

In 2013 Yamauchi came across an essay that discussed the cultural linkage between Korean divers and traditional small-scale fisheries in the Philippines written by UP Prof. Cynthia Zayas, director of the Center for International Studies.

In her catalog, Yamauchi said the essay suggested “a worldview seen from the sea inherited by divers, who are the living embodiment of life culture that originates in the sea, nurtured by the sea and carried by tides and currents beyond the restriction of borders.”

“After visiting South Korea, I contacted Prof. Cynthia Zayas to ask for her help in locating the best village to visit and explore,” Yamauchi said.

Last year she spent 45 days in two remote fishing villages: one in Ayoke Island in Surigao del Sur and the other in the Matina Aplaya Bajau Community in Davao City.

“I struggled to get used to everyday living [laughs]. Especially because I visited the remote villages and islands, which are so different from the city life in Japan I’m used to,” Yamauchi said.

She said it took a month for her to get used to living with the people in those communities, trying to catch up on the reason of their living and accompanying them in their fishing trips.

“But because these people in the sea, they don’t live in the world of verbal language,” Yamauchi said, “They communicate bodily or with signs and marks so it helped me to also communicate with them without having the aid of verbal language. I could talk to them with bodily signs or drawing or pictures.”

Free divers, for Yamauchi, are a living embodiment of the world before national borders were imposed.

“For example, Japan and Korea are divided into two nations, but when you look at our living field from the sea, it’s connected by the sea in between. It’s so natural to think of the cultural continuation between the two countries,” she said.

Yamauchi thought the same for Japan, Korea and the Philippines being connected, rather than divided, as nations through “a linkage or connection through the grand journey that maybe the ancient people took many years ago.”

The project is part of the Artist-in-Residence program by The Unifiedfield, a team of artists and curators, and was also brought to Silliman University, Dumaguete, in 2015.