Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and its Diasporas
Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and its Diasporas
Sacred waters bathe the histories of African peoples--waters of life, departure, and return. Sometimes they appear as tears of deep sorrow, sometimes as soothing and cooling streams sustaining existence and hope. Water connects world with otherworld, life with afterlife. Among Africans dispersed across vast oceans, these waters are emblematic of the ultimate journey back home to Africa and all those distant yet living ancestors. In Haiti, it is the journey home to Guinee across the rippling boundary of existence, imagined as a vast expanse of water that exists between life and afterlife. This is the abode of Lasirèn, La Baleine, Agwe, Simbi, Yemanja, Watra Mama, and all the water divinities of Africa and the African Atlantic. Their names are regularly invoked to strengthen the determination needed to endure the hardships and challenges of lives scattered and torn asunder by the avarice, arrogance, and brutality of those who would enslave others for their own benefit. The arts for African Atlantic gods and goddesses evoke complex emotions, hopes, and dreams as well as fears and nightmares. They may recall a sorrowful, troubled past, yet they offer hope and inspiration for a better future and the promise of an afterlife.

Roudy Azor (b. 1980, Port-au-Prince, Haiti)
Lasirene-marassas trois (Lasirèn-Twins [and the One Who Follows the Twins Making Three]), 2006
Satin, beads, sequins
Private Collection
Photo by Don Cole