Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mami Wata

After what seems like an awful lot of trouble, I am finally able to show you the work I created for 150 Feet of Art.
This is Mami Wata, a goddess of Africa and its diaspora (I really like being able to use the word "diaspora" in a sentence!). She is known by many names...La Sirene in Haiti, Yemanya in Brazil, for example. I was introduced to her the day before I was asked to contribute my work, through an article in the NY Times about a show at the Smithsonian. I find her and her history captivating... she may be a recent addition to many mythologies, which demonstrates that mythology is not dead or stagnant; it still breathes and evolves.
I tried very hard to create her in an authentic folk style. I (mostly) used only materials I already had on hand, and I feel kind of bad about that, because I have access to more art supplies than the people in many of these countries could ever dream of. On the other hand, I DID get to use the stuff I've been hoarding forever!

She is a strong woman, beautiful and somewhat vain. The gods and goddesses of the African diaspora are every bit as human as those of Greek mythology, and I like that better than Christianity's supposedly infallible God. The spiral beads covering her breasts are snakes; some of the iconography I've seen shows her with the serpents wrapped around her arms, but other articles I've read describe her breasts as actual snakes. It's voudou-esque, and I liked the thought of it very much. In fact, my inspiration was a Haitian voudou banner.
Clearly, I need lessons in drawing anatomy, but that's part of the charm. I could have copied someone else's torso, but this is ALL me.
Mami Wata haunted me for the entire month of April...I couldn't turn around without running into her someplace, and that's not including the Starbucks mermaid. No, she was on tv, billboards, a cup that I rediscovered after nearly twenty years. It couldn't have been clearer that I was on the right track.

I feel my representation is alive, living and breathing, like the mythology from which she swims forth. And if no one else finds her intriguing enough to make her a part of their home, I'm okay with that. It will only mean she's supposed to come home to me, and if that happens, I intend to create a lovely altar for her.

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