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African Art
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Headdress Surmounted by Four Women’s Faces and Mami Wata

mid-to late 20th century

Wood with paint, fabric, feathers, mirror, yarn, paper, and metal wire

54 1/2 × 20 × 19 in. (138.43 × 50.8 × 48.26 cm)
Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection
Revered throughout many parts of Africa and the African Atlantic world, Mami Wata (Mother Water) is a water spirit with roots in Hindu deities, African water spirits, and Christian and Muslim saints. The widespread nature of Mami Wata imagery in West Africa represents the cultural, spiritual, and aesthetic connections between Africans and the rest of the world. The Mami Wata iconography in this headdress reminds both the wearer and the viewer that arts and cultures from around the world dictate the aesthetics of Ode-Lay masquerade.
Guinea Coast, Sierra Leone
On view
Krio, Ode-Lay association
20th century

Possibly Jeremiah Cole, Los Angeles and Atlanta. Charles B. Benenson Collection, donated to Yale University Art Gallery in 2004


Sarah Adams, Call and Response: Journeys of African Art, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2000), 74, fig. 42.

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2005–June 30, 2006,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2006): 222.

Henry John Drewal, “Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diaspora,” African Arts 41 (2008): 76, fig. I.5.

Frederick John Lamp, Amanda Maples, and Laura M. Smalligan, Accumulating Histories: African Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 312, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.