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Art&CultureArt
Sugar Cane Cultivated at Jeju-based Art Museum
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승인 2022.08.22  16:38:38
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▲ Photo: PODO MUSEUM

Sugar cane, the raw ingredient for sugar, is a crop that embodies the cruel irony of history, as a multitude of African slaves were forced into labor to fill the extravagant dinner tables of Europeans with a sweet tooth. The Korean people were not immune from the ripple effects of this tragedy.

After the abolition of slavery, it was often Asian immigrants who filled the labor gap to farm sugar cane. For example, 7,300 Joseon citizens journeyed to sugar cane farms in Hawaii in 1902.

▲ Photo: PODO MUSEUM

Around 20 years later, 18-year-old girls from Joseon also left their home country to marry these migrant workers, holding only a photograph of their would-be husbands. The immigrant community in Hawaii referred to these women as “picture brides,” meaning that the bride and groom married each other while having seen nothing but a photograph of each other.

“Picture Bride” is also the title of an installation art piece revealed at PODO Museum in Jeju from the 5th of last month by artist Yeondoo Jung, who has emerged as a notable figure in Korean contemporary art circles. The piece recreates the scenery of the sugar cane fields that picture brides would have witnessed upon leaving their country at a young age, over 100 years ago.

Upon entering PODO Museum in Jeju’s Jungsangan, visitors are faced with a long and narrow greenhouse. The greenhouse made of wood and polycarbonate contains a pathway lined with sugar cane on both sides.

▲ Photo: PODO MUSEUM

The sugar cane was personally grown by the artist in Jeju over the previous six months. On either end of the greenhouse, a display screen has been installed to play different videos. On the left side, the screen displays the process of building the greenhouse and growing sugar cane, while the right-side screen features the workshop hosted by the artist over eight sessions with female second-year female students of Aewol High School in Jeju.

Visitors are led to walk through the sugar cane and share in the sentiments that the picture brides would have felt in the hot and vast sugar cane fields. The statues of the brides are also made of sugar, demonstrating the artist’s creative intent.

▲ Photo: PODO MUSEUM

Artist Yeondoo Jung commented, “I never gave any specific direction or instruction as I worked with the students from Aewol High School,” and added, “I was curious to see whether visitors could empathize with their great-grandmothers’ generation upon seeing the process in which these young students come to understand women who existed 120 years ago. In that regard, this piece is made complete by the audience who looks around the greenhouse.”

[PODO MUSEUM]
■10am ~ 6pm (Closed on Tuesday)
■Tickets : 10,000 won ($7.70) for adults
■Audio guides : English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese.

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