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She is thought to be the Mother of All. She is the origin of all waters – in particular, The River Ogun. The translation of her name means “Mother of all fish.” She is Yemaya (or Yemaja), the Nigerian Goddess of the Ocean. This Yuroba Orisha is said to be very nurturing and able to heal infertility in women.
In the story of Yemaya, she was raped by her son, and ran to a mountaintop where she would later take her own life. But before, she gave birth to fourteen very powerful orisha. When her water broke, it was said to have created the seven sees.
Yemaya made the journey into the new world through the African diaspora, where slaves brought her story to new lands. Today, she is also worshipped in places like Brazil and Haiti.
The image of Yemaya was inspired by Humphrey Ominisan’s portrait of Anasam Abel. The dramatic pose lead me to want to create something inspired by her image. I’ve also been drawn to the octopus lately, which represents creativity, intelligence and unpredictability.
Seeing the octopus tentacle may look scary at first, but you’ll observe that its tentacles aren’t gripping, Yemaya, but cradling her. The tentacle winds up her body and eventually turns to hold her head and wrap around her eyes. I did this to say that Yemaya does not need to see because she sees through her children – all ocean life. I wanted her gold crown and bracelet to be simple, as to not distract from her gorgeous skintone. There is also a real seashell affixed to her bracelet.
This painting can be experienced in either a vertical or horizontal orientation. Each evokes a different emotion in the viewer and can inspire in different ways.
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