Skip to main content

Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore: A Fiber Arts Exhibition

Opening Reception Sept 8th, 2012 5pm to 8pm

Torreah "Cookie" Washington – Curator

Inspired by the folklore and visual history of the black mermaid archetype,” Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore: A Fiber Arts Exhibition” will be the largest showcase of Mermaid art quilts and art dolls ever assembled. “There could not be a more perfect site for “ Mermaids”, than City Gallery at Waterfront Park, as it over looks Charleston Harbor.” Curator Cookie Washington said enthusiastically.

Enslaved Africans, carried across the Atlantic in the slave trade, brought with them their beliefs and practices honoring their ancestral water deities. “Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore: A Fiber Arts Exhibit” celebrates the visual cultures and histories of water goddesses.

Today, communities of color have reestablished, revisualized, and revitalized African mermaids in their art. The quilting and doll-making traditions have also undergone a renaissance from utilitarianism to fine crafts. ‘Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore’ is a journey of color and inspiration, a visual feast of imaginative expression. The fine craftsmanship in Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore is griot in nature,” says Curator Cookie Washington. She has brought together both critically acclaimed and emerging fiber artists. “Each piece is a storyteller, using color, texture, form and embellishment to express a narrative.”

African-American quilting as a craft-form is hardly recent. Long before the advent of slavery on this continent, civilizations of Africa were weaving the backdrop for African-American quilting as they preserved their aesthetic principles, religious and cultural traditions.
Women continued the quilting tradition in the American South. Symbolism and meaning continued as a thread through quilts crafted during slavery. Quilts were made and used in a utilitarian fashion, hand stitching scraps together to keep families warm. In some cases, quilts made by elders were the only legacy a family had, preserving memories and events.

In a rare collaboration, the exhibit catalogue pairs profound poetry and fantastic photography that will be a lasting reminder of the relationship between fine craft and soaring poetic verse that speaks of the black mermaid. Dive in to this rich, juicy, Mermaid poetry. This vivid affecting, powerful collection accompanies the artwork sensationally. Taken together, you’ll be baptized into the undersea world of the Merpeople.

Making a splash in verse are: Mariahdessa Ekere Tallie, Van G. Garrett, Kurtis Lamkin, filmmaker -poet Bianca Spriggs, Akua Lezli Hope, Tzynya L. Pinchback and Poet Laureate of South Carolina Marjory Heath Wentworth to name a few. You’ll be delighted to submerge yourself in the relationship between fine art and soaring poetic verse that celebrates the black mermaid experience.

Schedule of Events:
Thursday, Sept. 6th Donors’ lunch at Runaway Bay Restaurant
1045 Everglades Avenue North Charleston, SC 29405
(Old Navy Base) Public may meet and greet Dr Drewal and artists that have arrived for this event filled weekend
from 12:00 PM to 2 pm. $25 for Artists and guests Some Rides will be available, please inquire.

Let’s Talk Mermaids: High Chief High Priest Nathanial Styles & Dr Henry Drewal
Thursday, Sept. 6th @ 6:30 pm to 8:30 –Albert Simmons Center for the Arts, 2nd floor Rehearsal Hall 54 St Philip St., Charleston, SC, 29401 Open to Public $5. Tickets at door.
Some Rides and Hotel buses will be available.

Friday Sept 7th Yemaya's Feast Day
Bus to transportation for Artists and friends will leave from Lockwood Blvd Marriott promptly at 6 PM to travel to Sullivans Island for activities on the Island. Meet in hotel lobby at 5:45 PM each the bus only holds 50 people so make sure you have a seat! $15

6:30 PM “Waterbody” By Bianca Spriggs
Presenting the World Premiere of the film “Waterbody” By Bianca Spriggs Ticketed event $5 Sullivans Island, SC
WATERBODY is a short film based on a poem of the same title by Bianca Spriggs from her collection, How Swallowtails Become Dragons. In this contemporary urban fantasy steeped in magical realism, a lonely woman finds and adopts a sickly mermaid and nurses her back to health. In the process, the mermaid turns into a human and the woman turns into a mermaid. At its core, this is a narrative about the power of friendship, but also the power of reinvention and the discovery of one's true identity.

Yemaya's Feast Day Ceremony/Celebration 7 pm- Presided over by Yoruba High Priest & High Chieftain Nathanial Styles & Prince Emmanuel Adérelé, fire bringer. Walk from Ft Moultrie’s Visitors Center on Sullivans Island, SC across parking lot to “The Bench by the Side of the Road,” Sunset will be around 7:30 PM. Bring offerings of flowers, coins, and small fruits please also bring a monetary offering for Chief Styles and Prince Emmanuel Adérelé fire bringer, (suggested donation $15 + + Please put monetary donation in envelope that will be provided for you!)

There will be as dinner for artists and supporters immediately following. We will share a meal and fellowship with Chief Nathanial and Prince Emmanuel Adérelé at a local eatery Gilligan’s of Mt Pleasant.
You will be responsible for paying for your own meal.
We will need to know total of guests attending? Reservations need to be made. By Sept. 1st.
(After dinner, the bus will return you to Hotel in Historic Charleston.)

Black Mermaid Tales in the Americas Saturday 3 to 4PM
Speaker Dr Henry Drewal-
Location: Avery Center for African American Research
125 Bull Street Charleston, SC 29424 Free to Public. Donations accepted.
Some Rides and hotel buses will be available.

Saturday 5 PM The Main Event :
Mermaids & Merwomen In Black Folklore: A Fiber Arts Exhibition
Artists Opening Reception
City Gallery at Waterfront Park, 34 Prioleau Street, 29401 Artists Opening Reception and release of the book BLACK MERMAIDS in VISION & VERSE.
5 to 8 PM Free Open to the Public Some Rides will be available…. Hotel buses as well.
After Party
Saturday 8:30 PM until 10 PM Celebration of the Artists! A catered shrimp and grits dinner, music and perhaps a poetry reading or three! Location YWCA 106 Coming Street
(1 block off Calhoun Street) free parking! $30 per person.

August 28, 2012 - October 28, 2012

City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Historic Charleston, SC
34 Prioleau Street Charleston, SC 29401
, SC


Request a Visitors Guide

Where should we send your visitor guide?

*We will not sell or give away your personal information. Your privacy matters to us.

Would you like to receive e-mail updates about deals and events in Charleston?
May we send you offers from our partners?

Request a Digital Visitors Guide