On Yemoja, the Orisha
It's quite hilarious the things you believe as a child. When I was little, for example, there was this old tale that used to go around my circle of cousins. The tale was one of a witch named was Maame Watah (Ghana,in the Ashanti tribe). They said that every night she would come out of the sea and take with her any little child that would wet the bed. She had webbed feet and long straggly fingers that dragged behind her on the dusty floors. Nails..she had none of those because the floor had worn them out. Her skin had been dissolved in the salty sea waters so that only her raw skin was left. Maame Watah, still roams the bedrooms of scared and calloused children today. The name of this garish character in other African, and Sub-African cultures ranges from Yemoja, an Orisha, in Yoruba culture to Yemaya in Cuba. The conversion of the African peoples from native religious ideas to Christianity (and similarly, the merging of faiths), meant that this once exalted deity of femininity and life became evil. The idea, of course, as with any children's tale with horrific endings, is to scare them into an ideology, regime or discipline.
Growing up with these gruesome tales of Maame Watah meant that I had a long-standing idea of what she might look like. I imagined her blood-soaked skin to be fiercely red as if it had been skinned, and her eyes to be peering and desolate. Yet in the midst of this, I thought she might have a beauty too. One that enticed men into her dark waters and lead children to their dull and solemn deaths. Funnily enough, Maame Watah, in European folklore is actually a Mermaid! I had no idea until I started to look into the history of this character. The positivity associated with Mermaids has always been baffling to me, simply because my experience with this creature has not been a good one. Nevertheless, it doesn't take away from the strange beauty I've attached to her. This drawing might seem a little weird, scary and almost goofy-looking, but I find this quite endearing. I love illustrating serious characters with humorous quirks, it's a nice way to put a personal spin an otherwise dark subjects. So this evening, if I were you, I'd sleep with one eye open and all your limbs under the covers... Perhaps, try not to wet the bed too much either.