The Untold Stories of Mermaids in Africa

A wealth of examples can be found in “The Annotated African American Folktales,” which was published in November 2017 by African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Maria Tatar. It’s a groundbreaking, 600-page compilation of black myths and legends, considered the most comprehensive and ambitious collection of black folklore ever published in American literary history, with dozens of tales rarely read before. There’s the age-old African mermaid legend known as Mami Wata (Mother Water), but it’s a folktale that remains mostly unrecognized and unexplored. Just as Disney borrowed a Danish fairy tale as the basis for their Ariel, the studio could just have easily done the same with a popular African legend as the basis for a live-action Disney film about a mermaid. It’s arguable that most Americans are unaware of the rich mythology that has long existed within the global African diaspora. It’s a lesson that Disney could stand to learn.


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