When I had my first son, I took a DNA test. Since I am adopted, I wanted to know for sure what I would pass on. It showed I was primarily of korean descent with a significant high percentage japanese. Knowing Koreas bloody past with Japan, it wasn’t joy at first sight. When I had visited wooden buddhist temples, signs always said “..burned down by the japanese, restored in..”. Every cultural trait had been attempted wiped out in a massive, colonial wave of violence. And this violence was right there, present in my body. Of course, the landscape, the oceans and even the gut itself don’t mind these emotional, collective wounds, they bleed into new territories like slow liquid.

Somewhere, in the past, among those islands that would become Japan, an enzyme from a marine bacteria called Zobellia galactanivorans found its way into the genome of the human stomach bacteria B. plebeius. An enzyme that had a profound ability to derive nutrients from red algae, also known as nori seaweed. As if the ocean had crawled right into the human gut, it is also said that people in the past used to study the whales; when they gave birth, they would eat great amounts of seaweed to nurse their calves. In Korea that led to the traditional seaweed soup miyeok-guk, a dish always made for new mothers.



dried wakame seaweed
soy sauce
minced garlic
sesame oil

Soak. Rinse. Fry. Soak. Stir. Season.


Jette Hye Jin Mortensen (1980) is a visual artist born in Korea and living in Denmark. In 2010 she graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of fine arts. In 2013 she made the project The Apology about the worldwide, historical and current experiences of transcultural adoption in a narrative of collective trauma and healing. This year the Danish government acknowledged their responsibility in the 1950s adoption scheme, where Greenlandic children, as part of modernizing Greenland, were separated from their birthmothers and families. Anaanaga, My mother, is written in seaweed and snow on the flag.