On Assignment in Jeju – Part 2

This post is a bit late … after all, I’ve been back in Canada almost a month. I started out the trip to Jeju with the express intention of publishing daily whatever progress I made, but found out very quickly (literally the second day of the trip) that the hour or two it took every night to get my hands on some internet, upload pictures from my camera, and write an update, could be spent on more frivolous things like … say …. actually doing the things I needed to get done on the trip!

Jeju really was a productive two weeks, and despite the delay, I’d like to share things in some sort of chronological order. So let’s pretend it’s May 15th….

      DAY TWO       

The second full day in Jeju was a busy one. Thanks to Anne Hilty, an american psychologist living on the island, I discovered that (by sheer dumb luck) I would arrive in Jeju just in time to experience a very special Seolmundae Halmang-themed event.

Every May 15th, the director of the Jeju Stone Park, an enormous museum/cultural centre dedicated to the myths and science of Jeju’s unique geology, hosts a ceremony dedicated to Seolmundae Halmang.

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My ticket to Jeju Stone Park

The event began with a series of prayers and benedictions from various dignitaries and religious leaders. For many in Jeju, Seolmundae Halmang represents the fierce independent spirit of the islanders in the face of modern homogenization, and so the prayers came from ministers and monks, politicians and artists. A prayer to Seolmundae Halmang is a show of solidarity for the preservation of Jeju’s identity.
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Participants offer prayers to Seolmundae Halmang
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Sketches from the ceremony.
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This lady flew all the way down from the mainland to perform a  Salpuri Dance.

I managed to get a good deal of drawing done, but having a white dude sitting on the grass in plain sight with two sketchbooks and a set of watercolour paints laid out around him became a little too distracting for the audience, and I ended up with a gaggle of people around me watching me draw and trying to strike up conversation. I finally had to pack it in when my entourage grew so loud that some of the performers started shooting me dirty looks. 
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In between washes of paint, some rough sketches.

A monk played an astoundingly beautiful Bicheongeum arrangement. It was much more rhythmic and dense than what I’m accustomed to hearing from Gayageum players — he was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to the John Cage minimalism of 침향무’s gayageum meditations (does that work as a metaphor?). It was epic.
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The ceremony climaxed with a renowned female shaman performing a Gut (굿). The Gut is fascinating in that, rather than being a practiced ritual, it combines storytelling, comedy, and satire into a largely improvised performance. Surrounded by incense burners and accompanists on drums, she chanted and danced herself into a hypnotic frenzy, working her way through stages of invocation before delivering her oracle to the attendees.

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A prominent Jeju shaman performed the Gut.

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Giant stone mounds surrounded the performance area.

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The Gut performance.

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Sketches from the 굿

Afterwards, I explored the park grounds, wandering the myriad of forest paths that join the different section of the park, until I ended up in an eerily deserted replica of a traditional Jeju village:
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Like an idiot, I hadn’t dressed for the weather, and even though the day was overcast, by this point I was so badly sunburned I could feel my skin crinkling like parchment every time I moved. So I just gave up and sat down to paint. It’s going to hurt tomorrow anyways, might as well make it worth it…

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In spite of the agony of sunburn that lingered for days afterward (and guaranteed I would look like a drunk beet in every photograph of myself the whole trip), this was definitely a highlight of the journey.
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An Oreum (volcanic hill) overlooking the traditional Jeju Village

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