Also known as ‘Mami Wata’ in many parts of Africa where she originated from, brought to the new world by African slaves.
I vaguely recall parts of my childhood spent in Ghana in my grandmother’s house, however I do vividly remember my older cousins teasing me by saying; “mami wata will come for you when you take your bath!”
In short, Mami Wata is somewhat a taboo in Africa. Someone or something to be fearful of.
So you can imagine my curiosity to be part of an event in a country that praises her as the Goddess of the Sea- Imanja or Yemanjá as she is known in Brazil. As with many of the Afro-Brazilian Orixas of Candomble, Yemanjá is a syncretism corresponds to a Catholic saint which the Portuguese brought to Brazil. Perhaps that explains why there are many ideologies of Yemanjá’s image and complexion colour; from white to morena, however sadly, not very many visual representations of Yemanjá as ‘African‘.
The festival takes place annually in Salvador’s Rio Vermelho district on the 2nd of February. Locals and tourists alike pave the streets wearing symbolic colours of white and blue. Bainos can be found performing ‘traditional blessing’ rituals for a donation.
Devotees queue patiently with offerings consisting of flowers and perfume, to enter the Yemanjá shine which is situated on the sea front of Rio Vermelho. Dotted around are the fishermen and their boats. This festival holds much meaning to them as Yemanjá is also patron of fishermen.
Music and dance play an important part of any Bahian festival, and atmosphere dramatically changes into a carnival-style party as the nights creeps in.