While the word hue refers to colour, to be a hewer is to be someone who carves out. When I was in graduate school, one of the more influential papers I read was written by geographer Kathy Gibson. The paper, titled “Hewers of cake and drawers of tea”, was an analysis of class struggle and gender in the face of miners strikes in Queensland, Australia. The point of the paper was to illustrate the importance of domestic activity and women’s work in the reproduction of conditions under which strike action is made possible. Indeed, strike times, as well as times of employment and plenty, are sustained by the graft of women and the community in which and through which they forge their domestic craft. It is often through ordinary activities, such as cooking, from which social life is hewn.
While the fish in this photograph are not easily linkable to strike action and an overt class politics as was the cake and tea in Gibson’s paper, they do represent a moment in which the ordinary practices of everyday life enable a carving out (or hewing) of a way of living that sustains a form of public that is continuously being challenged by institutions that prioritise large corporations (such as supermarkets) with their associated privatisation and particular forms of sanitisation. These fish, drying on a public pier in Sia Kung, are manifestations of individuals de-sanitising and at the same time enlivening public space. They represent a resistance to the relentlessness of a capitalism that seeks to push underground the craft of domestic activity and replace it with grey industrialised forms of food production. The racks of drying fish introduce hue, texture, and history and in doing so reclaim a sense of place that neoliberal capitalism seeks to annihilate. In a sense, the everyday acts of drying fish on the public peer reclaim the pier for an ordinary, everyday public. In doing so these acts are as important an intervention as the strikes of workers seeking a more equitable life in the face of alienating exploitation of unfair waged labour practices.
This is part of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. The theme this week is Hue. You can find the challenge here.