What is a “mermaid” in various African languages?

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There are mermaids or mermaid-like beings in various African mythologies and folklore. For instance, in a sample of 25 African languages, a mermaid would be called:

• Achai Wiir in Dinka 🇸🇸

• Arusa el bahari in simple Arabic Juba 🇸🇸

• Binuwe (Benue) in Gbata tribe of Nigeria meaning “mother of water”

• Ingwenyama ya manzi (zulu)

• INJUZI in Ndebele language, Zimbabwe 🇿🇼

• Insunguni, Bemba in Zambia 🇿🇲.

• Jengu in Duala

• Kianda in Angola

• Mami wata, Equitorial Guinea

• Mami wata in lingala

• Maame water is from Akan. Maame means mother in Akan, so literally mother (of) water

• Mami lambu in Xitsonga, South Africa

• Mamlambo in Xhosa language, South Africa

• Mamokebe or Mamogashoa or Mothohlapi. Sepedi language in South Africa 🇿🇦🇿🇦

• Mari in Hausa, Nigeria

• Mọ-miri in Igbo, Nigeria

• ndem mmong, in Ibiobio, Nigeria

• Njuzu in Shona language Zimbabwe.

• Simbi in Kikongo

• Umamlambo in Xhosa, South Africa.

• Wagīchūgū. In Kiswahili, kitunusi.

• watra mama. (mother of the water) – In Surinamese

• Ximisisni in Xitsonga language, South Africa

• Yemoja. In Yoruba, Nigeria, Benin, Togo

• Yiah you in Gouro, Côte d’Ivoire.

While the specific characteristics and names may vary across different cultures and regions, the concept of aquatic beings with human and fish-like features can be found in several African traditions. These beings are often associated with water, rivers, lakes, and the ocean, and they hold significance in local beliefs and stories. Here are a few examples:

1. Mami Wata: Mami Wata is a well-known water spirit found in various West and Central African countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Nigeria, and others. Mami Wata is often depicted as a beautiful, seductive mermaid-like figure associated with wealth, beauty, and spiritual powers.

2. Jengu: Jengu is a water spirit found in the mythology of the Duala people of Cameroon. Jengu is described as a water deity or mermaid associated with rivers, often portrayed as a beautiful woman with long hair and a fish-like tail.

3. Yemoja: Yemoja, also known as Yemaya or Yemanja, is a prominent deity in the Yoruba religion of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. Yemoja is often associated with water, particularly the ocean, and is sometimes represented as a mermaid-like figure symbolizing motherhood, nurturing, and protection.

4. Njuzu: Njuzu is a water spirit or mermaid found in Shona mythology in Zimbabwe. Njuzu is believed to dwell in rivers and lakes and is associated with fertility, abundance, and water-related rituals.

5. Mamlambo: Mamlambo is a water spirit or creature known in the Xhosa and Zulu cultures of South Africa. It is described as a large, serpent-like creature or mermaid with a horse-like head, believed to inhabit bodies of water and bring both blessings and misfortune.

These are just a few examples, and there are likely more variations and names for mermaid-like beings in different African cultures. The rich diversity of African mythologies and folklore encompasses a wide range of supernatural beings, including those associated with water and the sea.

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What is a “mermaid” in various African languages?

by Editorial Team time to read: 2 min