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

Powers of Sea Lady

Catalog Number: J067


No border: 
62.88" x 37.94"

1,597.02 mm x 963.61 mm

With Border: 
65.5" x 38.75"

1,663.70 mm x 984.25 mm

Transatlantic Family of Religion: Vodun
Country of Origin: Ghana
Ethnographic Origin: Akan
Materials: Cloth
Usage: N/A
Detailed Description of Significance:

The most popular depictions of this aquatic goddess are based on a poster of an Indian snake charmer that circulated through West Africa. This woman does not match that image and instead follows the tradition of basing Mami Wata on the images European trading ships had on their bows. These images were frequently of mermaids.

The pot suspended above her hand evokes a common embodiment of power in West African traditions. Pots are used for the containment of spirits, the hand reaching out of the pot seems ghostly, as though it is part of the spirit being contained. The eye on the pot is not unusual for vessels used for religious and spiritual purposes, as these vessels embody the idea that heads and bodies are pots.  Like a the spirit in a person’s head or body, this one can see.  The eye on this pot is looking down at the mermaid’s hand, suggesting that she is a source of power. The hand is also a common symbol of power in West Africa. In Benin there are altars to the hand