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Exhibition Explores Multiple Cultures and 500 Years of History with Art Honoring the Essential, Sacred Nature of Water
Moyo Ogundipe (b. 1948, Ijesha-Ishu, Nigeria; active Denver, Colorado), “Mami Wata,” 1999. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of Chike Obianwu. Photo by Don Cole.
STANFORD, CA.- Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University presents “Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas,” August 4, 2010 through January 2, 2011. This exhibition explores 500 years of visual cultures and histories of the water deity widely known as Mami Wata (“Mother Water”) through the diverse array of traditional and contemporary arts surrounding her — sculpture, paintings, masks, altars, and more from west and central Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States.

Beautiful and seductive, protective yet dangerous, Mami Wata is celebrated throughout much of Africa and the African Atlantic world. Often portrayed as a mermaid, a snake charmer, or a combination of both, she and a “school” of related African water spirits all honor the essential, sacred nature of water. With 100 works portraying Mami Wata, the exhibition introduces the water spirit’s iconic persona, then reveals a widespread presence and popularity of this water spirit in religious and artistic practices around the world, and finally concludes with Mami Wata as artists’ muse today.

This exhibition was organized and produced by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and guest curated by Henry Drewal, Ph.D., who is professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies, University of Wisconsin. Drewal presents a lecture about Mami Wata and the exhibition on October 28 at 6:00 pm. The exhibition debuted at the Fowler Museum, then traveled to the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. The Cantor Arts Center presents the exhibition’s final viewing.

Cantor Arts Center | Mami Wata | Henry Drewal |


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