Mami Wata, or Mother Water, is a water spirit who is both worshipped and widely utilized as an artistic muse. She is commonly portrayed as a mermaid, snake charmer, or cross between the two. Traits commonly attributed to her are beauty, jealousy, danger, seduction, and good fortune. This good fortune is considered to take a monetary form, making her a “capitalist” deity.
The origin of the Mami Wata is thought to be a culmination of figures from across the globe: African water spirits, Christian and Muslim saints, mermaids from Europe, and Hindu gods and goddesses. Her transcultural origins serve to make her more mysterious, and she retains a level of fluidity in terms of what she represents and how she is worshipped. Some of the traits attributed to her are contradictory, such as her motherly nature and disposition for danger and destruction, leaving her true nature up to interpretation.
In this mask, Mami Wata can be seen standing atop a painted red face, holding a snake head in her right hand. The tail of this snake wraps underneath the red face’s chin and overlaps with the tail of a second snake, whose head rests on Mami Wata’s left shoulder. She holds an undefined object in her left hand, and looks straight ahead with shoulders back and eyes wide open.
23" x 8"