Mamba Muntu

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Mami Wata, Mamba Muntu, Mother Water. Known for her inhuman beauty, feared for her destructive powers, Mimi Wata is one of the most powerful and popular spirits in the African cultures. She is portrayed as a light skinned mermaid, beautiful and exotic, and is described as “…at once a nurturing mother; sexy mama; provider of riches; healer of physical and spiritual ills; and embodiment of dangers and desires, risks and challenges, dreams and aspirations, fears and forebodings." Mami Wata is honored through many art forms, glass paintings, masks, and the most popular form, sculptures. Since the day she was created, the image of Mami Wata has been illustrated very differently compared to the other African spirits, therefore causing her to be a very unique deity in contrast to other African spirits. The Mami Wata figure sculpture found on display at The University of Iowa Museum of Art is a free standing object. Using primarily the subtractive method, this figure was carved from solid wood. This method was…show more content…
The idea of her image came from a chromolithographic poster in Hamburg Germany of an 1887 Samoan circus snake charmer. “For African viewers, the chromolith represents an ‘exotic’ European water spirit. The snake is an important African symbol of water and the rainbow, is the most appropriate subject to be shown surrounding and protecting as well as being controlled by Mami Wata.” The man who saw the poster sent it to his friend in India who then printed copies of it and spread the image. In 1901, the photograph of the snake charmer was understood as an African water spirit, rendered into a three-dimensional carved image. The Mami Wata figures seen today have stayed consistent with the image of a snake charmer and have since added to it. Snakes represent moisture, prosperity and well-being, which also happen to be what Mami Wata stands

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