Mami Wata with Companion
Baule or Guro peoples
Wood and paint
H: 40.0 cm, W: 25.0 cm, D: 11.0 cm (H: 15.7 in, W: 9.8 in, D: 4.3 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Philip Ravenhill and Judith Timyan. X95.43.2
A work, either Baule or Guro, depicts Mami Wata embraced by a man in uniform. It may have come from a Mami Wata altar. Mami’s alluring attributes (bare breasts, wrapper of expensive woven prestige cloth, and fashionable high-heeled shoes) suggest her ling to the wealth of an expanding monetary system in the cosmopolitan, urban society of Cote d’Ivoire in the 1950s-1080s, when this sculpture was created. The man’s French colonial-era uniform recalls Mami Wata’s mythic overseas connections. Mami’s snake rises above her head, yet its direction is revered from the chromolithograph upon which this image is based – it is Mami as seen through a mirror, or glimpsed in the surface of water in this world that is merely a reflection of an otherworldly reality.
Source: Drewal, Henry John. (2008) “Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas”, Los Angeles, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History. page 87