River Mumma (River Mother) embodies the universal truth that water is life. In Jamaican folklore, she is the guardian of the river, conserving it for sustainable development. But River Mumma is a complex figure. Contradictorily benevolent and malevolent, she both protects and destroys. She exemplifies the paradoxical qualities of water: an essential life force and a torrential threat.
River Mumma is the Jamaican manifestation of an alluring water spirit that originates on the continent of Africa. There, she is known in some cultures as Mami Wata (Mammy Water). Transported across the terrifying body of water that was the Middle Passage, Mami Wata assumes many names in the African Diaspora. In Haitian Vodoun, she is La Sirene. In Cuban Santería and Brazilian Candomblé, she is Yemayá and Yemanjá respectively, reincarnations of the Yoruba river deity Yemoja.
In my representation of the River Mumma archetype, I deploy elements of her character that recur in many versions of her mythic story. She is a seductively beautiful creature with long flowing hair that she constantly combs. She carries a mirror in which she admiringly gazes at her reflection. She knows the power of her appeal. These aesthetic elements are incorporated in the design of the quilt. River Mumma is often imagined as half woman and half fish, inhabiting both land and water. I locate her at the intersection of earth, sky and water, mixing shades of brown, blue and silver to evoke these elements. In essence, River Mumma emblematizes transcendent African/Diasporic cultures.