Mami Wata is a legend that resonates widely throughout African folklore. It is significant not only in major costal African regions but also to the African diaspora. Loosely translated, Mami Wata means ‘mother water’. Though Mami Wata is the most common name of this legendary symbol, she is also referred to as Maame Wata, Mamba Muntu, and Mboze. Traces of the Mami Wata legend can be found in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leon, The Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Zambia. In parts of the African diaspora such as the Caribbean and South America she is known as Watermama, River Mama, Madre de Agua, and La Sirene. Aside from being a symbol of legends, Mami Wata is also a deity worshiped in the ancient African Voudun religion that promotes prosperity and spiritual health.
In folklore, Mami Wata is a water spirit who usually appears as half woman and half fish or serpent. In some legends however; she appears fully human and functions in society as an average person. She is characterized by unusually striking and almost supernatural beautiful, with excessively long hair and a love for materialistic possessions. She has the ability to charm and entice humans. Mami Wata is often pictured grooming or admiring herself while surrounded by expensive objects in the company of her pet (usually a large python) and has an aura of sexuality and luxury about her. Because of this and her influence on African pop culture, attractive and fashionable women in West Africa are frequently referred to as Mami Wata. She represents fulfillment of desires, prosperity, spiritual and physical health, and affluence, which is the common thread in legends about her.