2009 Alfred Z. Solomon Residency: “Spirit Spouse” Lecture

Henry Drewal, University of Wisconsin-Madison, will give a lecture called “Spirit Spouse: Art and Gender Identity in the Worship of Mami Wata.”

Known and worshipped throughout much of Africa, Mami Wata is often pictured as a beautiful woman with a snake coiled around her body. Part mermaid, part carnival snake-charmer, the deity has ties to African water spirits, European mermaids, Hindu gods and goddesses, and Christian and Muslim saints. “Many followers (both female and male) of the African water deity MamiWata— and of a host of mami wata/papi wata spirits—are drawn to them because of gender-identity crises,” explains Drewal. He will introduce the visual culture and history of water spirits, and discuss the life, faith, and artistry of Katarina Walas, an Ewe priestess of Mami Wata who molds clay sculptures and creates sacred spaces to enrich and intensify her devotions.

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