Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mermaids in Black Folklore

The following press release was sent to me by the primary contact listed at the end of the article. Please contact her directly if you have any questions. The press release makes for interesting reading, even if you cannot attend the event.

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“Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore”
City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Historic Charleston, SC
On view August 28 through October 28, 2012
Opening Reception Sept 8th, 2012  6pm to 8pm

The fiberarts exhibition Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore showcases a wide array of art quilts and art dolls that will explore some of the visual cultures and histories of mermaid myths that comprise part of the vast and uncountable "school" of African water spirits.

At once beautiful, protective, seductive, and dangerous, these water spirits are celebrated throughout much of Africa and the Afro Atlantic world.

Countless enslaved Africans forcibly brought to the Americas as part of the slave trade carried with them their beliefs, practices, and arts honoring their water spirits and deities. These water spirits are emblematic of the ultimate journey back home to Africa and all those distant yet living ancestors.

It is believed that some of the first tales of mermaids and merwomen were brought to America by Africans enslaved along the coast of the South Carolina Low Country.

Today, reestablished, revisualized, and revitalized in the African Atlantic, black mermaids emerged in new communities and under many different guises.

African-based faiths honoring these manifestations of black mermaids continue to flourish in communities throughout much of the Americas.

"The fine craftsmanship in Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore is griot* in nature,” says Curator Cookie Washington. She’s brought together both critically acclaimed and emerging fiber artists.

“Each piece is a storyteller, using color, texture, form and embellishment to express a narrative.”

What does Pliny the Elder, First Century AD, Bartholomaeus Anglicus, Christopher Columbus, the first three enslaved Africans brought to the South Carolina Low Country, Henry Hudson, explorer and discoverer of the Hudson River and the current Water Resources Minister of Zimbabwe have in common?

They have all seen mermaids!

Contact: Torreah Cookie Washington
Curator- Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore
Phone 843 259 8108

* The word "griot" is a west African word that means story teller or keeper of the history. Because many tribes were griot in nature, very little of the history was written down. The stories of the tribes and of the family was passed orally from one generation to the next.


Best wishes and starfishes,
-Mermaid Cynthia
cynthia (at)

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  1. Mermaids also feature in Indigenous Australian culture which I just recently discovered!

  2. Thankos for covering the "Mermaid and MErwomen in African Folklore Exhibit. I was happy to see my "Madre de Agua quilt featured on your blog. Thnaks for being a fellow mermaid lover!

    -Teresa Vega

  3. What a wonderful coverage of the "Mermaid and Merwomen in African Folklore Exhibit! Thanks for helping to spead the word about this amazing, mythical exhibition. I am honored to have my artwork in this exhibit and look forward to seeing all the wonderful works. KUDOS to Cookie for her vision and leadership.

  4. Thanks for your support for the Mermaids and Merwomen in African Folklore Exhibit. An additional thanks for featuring Goddess of the Western Shore. I enjoyed making the piece and look forward to continuing the series.