Ama at V&A

Ama, 2014

For the duration of London Design Festival at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Michael Anastassiades in collabo­ration with Flos presented the lighting installation Ama, made by mouth blown opaline spheres and brass. The piece has been an appreciation of the pearl diving mermaids of Japan.

The simple, even primitive beauty of these women who harvested seaweed, turban shells and abalone from beneath the coastal waters can be tracked 2000 years back in history, as recorded in the oldest Japanese anthology of poetry. Only equipped with visual acuity, lung capacity and a hunter’s instinct, Ama women would dive some 30 feet down in cold water, confronting minus zero conditions at times and only wearing a loincloth, in search of the goods lying on the ocean bed. The tides of change went almost unnoticed in the Ama community, which slowly lost the daily interaction with the marine web of life. Ama 2014 has been a tribute to the savage beauty of the last Ama women, still diving at the age of 90, as well as to the ones who were taken away by the 20th century events within the Japanese archipelago.

Photo credit: Jonathan Banks