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In Search of Mami Wata

Earlier this year, I was honored to see my art published in a book called In Search of Mami Wata. Edited by Michelle Yaa Asantewa, and published in London, the book is “a celebration of African Water deities.”

“All African indigenous spiritual practices have variations of water spirits. Although European cultural imperialism identifies the West African Mami Wata as arising from the period of colonisation, this deity is primordial and universal as it is connected to the natural force of water. In other guises she is identified with Mami Osun, Olukun and Yemaya, some of the Orisa found in the Yoruba Ifa tradition. In this full colour anthology she is portrayed and celebrated in fiction and non-fiction narratives and images that will inspire and reconnect her many children across the African continent and diaspora.”

I have had a long spiritual relationship with Mami Wata. This thread has run through my life since 1989 and is prominent in my work.

So it was entirely natural that I should respond to Michelle's call for contributions, although we had never met. I'm proud that she was happy to include several of my pieces in the book.

In the end, it allowed me to also collaborate with my husband, prize-winning poet Jesse Alexander. The book includes several of his poems. Over the years, working with poets from many countries has deepened my understanding and my love of Mami Wata.

The virtual book launch was held in April 2021. Through the experience, I learned that Michelle is herself part of a community that honors the rivers and the waters, Mami Wata and her magic.

Watch the Book Launch here:

My Love Affair With Mami Wata

My long relationship with the water goddess Mami Wata began on a trip to Cuba in 1989. I went for the 3rd International Biennial for artists from the developing world. There, I met artists from all over the world and had the opportunity to collaborate with a master printmaker at the Taller de Serigrafia Rene Portocarrero in Habana to create some art work.

This is when and how I was first introduced to Santeria - and the African-based cultural and traditional spiritual practices in Cuba.

I met Yemaya, and Mami Wata, and the other water spirits, which flow through the art and the people all over Cuba. And I started working with the energy and spirit of Mami Wata and Yemaya in my art work - and my life.

That first trip to Cuba later led me to Nigeria, and to the root of the Santeria practice. In Nigeria it is called “Ifa” - and Yemaya is large and in charge, as the predominant Mother Spirit.

I also met and came to know Osun, the Goddess of Fertility. I met her at the traditional Osun-Osogbo Festival, held on the banks of the Osun River. That river experience influenced my practice of honoring and giving offerings to Mami Wata and Yemaya. It was the beginning of a career-long fascination with these spirits.

Over the long years since, a thread has run through my work that speaks to connecting with Mami Wata, the mother, and the water -- as healing, as power, as strength, as wisdom, as perseverance.

I’m honored to be part of In Search of Mami Wata, published by Way Wive Wordz, London, UK, 2021



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