La Sirena Yemaya, Diosa del Mar

My tribute to Yemaya began as a Malibu Barbie.  Her dreadlocks are fashioned of hand-spun, kettle-dyed merino wool, and her outfit was reconstructed from seven different classic Barbie gowns which were then pieced together and sewn by hand into a single garment.  Around her neck is a strand of plastic shells (strangely enough, an actual Barbie accessory).  Her altar is assembled from an old wooden clock case salvaged from a junkyard and embellished with a rusted chain that symbolizes both the captivity of the Middle Passage and the resilience of its survivors. The altar is draped in a woven seaweed net and contains an eclectic assortment of shells and various sea treasures.  She comes complete with a truncated conch shell that can be used either as a crown or as a stand beneath her feet.  Removing her from the altar case as a free-standing entity reveals its interior, an ethereal scape of swirling sea energies and starlit skies, all fabricated from classic Barbie gowns of the 70’s and ‘80s.

Yemaya, the Mother of all orishas, originated in Africa as a goddess of the Yoruba River.  In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, she accompanied the Ifa people through the Middle Passage, reemerging on the other side of the Atlantic with those who survived the horrific journey. From this process she emerged powerfully transformed as the goddess of the ocean. She is traditionally depicted wearing seven skirts (for the seven seas) in all the magical hues of light reflecting on waves, incandescent with sea foam. Known by many names, she has a large following in the Americas, particularly in Haiti, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Florida and Louisiana.