Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Plaster Statue of the Afro-Brazilian Goddess Iemanjá

Catalog Number: C069


17.38" x 9.40" x 5.06" 
441 mm x 238.81 mm x 128.43 mm

Religion and Denomination: Batuque
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Country of Origin: Brazil
Ethnographic Origin: Brazilian (Brazil)
Materials: Beads
Usage: Tourist/Souvenir
Detailed Description of Significance:

Iemanjá is the goddess of the sea in multiple Afro-Brazilian religions, such as Umbanda and Candomblé.  She is cognate with the Yoruba goddess Yemọja, who, in Nigeria, is the goddess of the River Ògùn, also known as the River Yemọja.  In Brazil, her image is regularly modeled on a mermaid or, as in this case, a brunette white woman with a long, flowing dress.  Some Nigerian images of the goddess are also ichthyanthropic, but not white. 

This object is interesting in its mixture of symbolism. Blue–Iemanjá’s emblematic color–is found everywhere, but so is gold, a color associated with Iemanjá’s sister Oxum. The rectangular base is odd for this type of image, a rounded base is more common. There is a noticeable lack of imagery corresponding to Iemanjá’s sacred number 7. The goddess is also more commonly portrayed as a dark-skinned woman than one with this skin shade, referred to as Morena.

The flowers around her feet recall her devotees’ acts of devotion during her huge annual festival.  In Bahia, this festival takes place on February, the 2nd.  In Rio, it occurs on January 1st. Large crowds of people travel to the shore and throw in white roses to honor Iemanjá.