In the last couple of months, We’ve received some questions on the spiritual essence of water; its primordiality, its motherhood and even its darkness or as someone put it, “that side of it that’s so willing to flood and destroy my life if I don’t submit myself to it.”
MAMI WATA, is simply a generic West African-English way of referring to ‘MOTHER WATER’. ‘Mami’ stands for ‘mother’ while ‘Wata’ stands for ‘Water’. That’s the most direct and correct translation there is for the term. Within indigenous communities there are multiple other ways to refer to or address this phenomena. For a general term, Ìgbòs will say NNE MMIRI when referring to mother water and then you could hear other terms such as IDEMMILI/IDEMMIRI OR OSHIMMIRI/OSHIMMILI when you bring in context. It goes on and on. As the multiple faces and indigenous technologies directly linked to water shows its hand in our world, multiple names and titles roll out to accompany them. Each group with their own endowment.
I know a lot of people are curious to know and learn more about this very popular mami wata phenomena which has been bastardized and vilified so violently in religious circles yet no amount of rubbishing with songs and prayers or even spiritual warfare seem to have caused its manifestations to cease. Anyway! In an effort to assist those interested in getting some understanding on this phenomenon which surrounds and sustains every single one of us one way or another, I have put together a list of seven articles you can read to help enlighten your mind. There are tons of nonsensical content on the Internet lots of which I’ve read, and gone ahead to select the seven highlighted in this post as good places to start if you’re just trying to get the gist of it, or to see first hand encounters, or get information around some of its history or simply interrogate the idea etc. They’re neither perfect nor all there is to it, they’re just a good place to start.
Here’s my list of seven articles on Mami Wata Phenomena highlighted in no particular order which you can read;
1. Married In The Water: Spirit Kin And Other Afflictions Of Modernity In South-Eastern Nigeria, by Misty L. Bastian.
2. Mami Wata Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas, by Henry John Drewal.
3. Eze Mmiri Di Egwu, The Water Monarn Is Awesome, Reconsidering the Mammy Water Myths, by Sabine Jell-Bahlsen.
4. Performing the Other, Mami Wata Worship in Africa, by Henry John Drewal.
5. Nneka: Is Mother Still Supreme In Igboland? Reflections On The Biography Of Eze Mmiri, Madame Martha Mberekpe Of Orsu-Obodo,1934-2007, by Sabine Jell-Bahlsen.
6. Mammy Wata, by Jill Salmons.
7. From, EMERGING PERSPECTIVES ON FLORA NWAPA: Critical and Theoretical Essays, An Interview with Flora Nwapa, by Sabine Jell-Bahlsen.
In another post, maybe sometime in the near future we can put together another list of more articles which we’ve read and can recommend. We might also put together a list of films (*good* documentaries) those interested can check out.
There’s no way I’m ending this post without giving a shout out to ‘Guitar Boy’ the bestseller song by the legendary Sir Victor Uwaifo (go check it out if you haven’t already). That song has one of the most interesting Mami Wata back stories and y’all know I AM A SUCKER FOR STORIES. So Victor Uwaifo (God rest his soul) was known to share his story of how back in the day when he still worked for NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) as a graphic designer, he took a walk to the beach after work and sat with his guitar just playing and chilling till it got dark, then he saw a glittering figure emerge from the water in a matter of seconds and just before he could process the sight it was in front of him and it said “Guitar Boy, if you Mami Wata, never you run away”, just before he fled. As we now know, the rest is history, the string pull he inserted (invented) into the song’s instrumental was a depiction of his scream from that encounter, and the lyrics as well. The song went on to be an overnight bestseller which paid him for the rest of his life.
The main point of the story is, Dear reader, IF YOU SEE MAMI WATA EHN NEVER NEVER YOU RUN AWAY. And in all your getting, get understanding.
P.S: They’re all available online but for whatever reason, if you’re unable to find or access any of the recommended articles, send me a message and I’ll send you a copy.
Visit our new blog https://sloaneangelou.blog/journal