Tag Archives: Religion

White Jesus, brown Mami Wata

I remember how betrayed I was when I found out that Jesus might not have looked like he did in the popular ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ film. He did not have piercing blue eyes. He did not have blonde hair.

In fact, if he was alive now he might be in a detention centre, arrested on terrorist charges for fitting the profile (Arab-looking, visibly vocal with loyal following). It’s a good thing he walked on water because with that profile, nobody would let him near a plane – at least not without some serious body cavity searching (“What’s that barrel for? You wanna turn water into wine? I’m sorry sir, Imma have to search you. Spread ’em.”)

Recently on doing a bit of light reading for a short story, I discovered that our popular image of Mami Wata was not only done by  German painter in 1926, but is based on a chromolithograph of Samoan snake-charmer.

Hear me out before you start crossing yourself, screaming ‘Obara Jesus’ or singing All Other Gods Are Sinking Sand.  I can understand that Christianity is an imported religion and so should reflect imagery from where it came from (even if it doesn’t really), but isn’t it a bit….pathetic…that even in African traditional religions, modern images of deities that are revered, that have been revered perhaps by our fathers and their  fathers etc, cannot even be found to have originated from them? Yes, this Mami Wata is close enough but no cigar. 

I wonder how much this contributes to people’s religious self-esteem in Nigeria if on either side nowadays, God has no physical  resemblance to you. I wonder if this translates to self-esteem in other areas; if your god is represented as blue-eyed and blond-haired or straight-nosed and wavy- haired, could it mean that you view anyone with these set of characteristics as closer to God somehow? And where does that place you with your flat nose and kinky hair and dark skin?

I suppose the Catholic church is ‘trying’ in this regard since we have some black saints but it’s telling in other ways that I couldn’t find women amongst them. If you know of any black women saints, let me know.

(Remember to show this blog post to your garri vendor in the market because you’ll get a discount.)

In other news: Jesu Kristi onye ebere, what is this? I tried to find an image for the goddess Idemmili (who is often mistaken for Mami Wata) and this came up.

Where do I begin? The girl’s brown underthings with sexy hint of bum-crack? The boy’s noticeable lack of poster originality?  By picking my jaw off the floor?

His name is Gentle O. I can’t tell you what his music is like as all the links don’t play but it must be true that when God closes a door, he opens a window – he is from Chinua Achebe’s hometown.

Gentle O, carry go, nothing do you!

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Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur…

I think I was already in my twenties before it occurred to me that people in this country – the UK – and the rest of the civilised world do not mix science and religion.

In Nigeria, primary school saw us studying both Bible Knowledge and sciences. In secondary school it was Christian Religious Knowledge followed by Biology or Physics or Chemistry. The atom was still the smallest indivisible particle and we lapped it all up like dogs –  or soaked it up like sponges. It is part of the amazing Nigerian ability to hold on to two totally contradicting ideologies. We didn’t care. We rendered to Caesar what was his and to God we gave his/her due.

So which is it? Are we a product of evolution or children of dust and wind and in my case, some dude’s bone? (There is a feminist argument here but I shall ignore that for another day!) When ‘darkness was on the face of the deep’ was that the beginning of the universe? Did the words ‘Let there be light’ cause the Big Bang?

I’ve discussed my ideas of God with Hubs, two bloggers; Carmen McCain and Elnathan John as well as one deeply christian friend with a failed blog (I’m looking at you). I have a lot of questions, but I will say this; I am not arrogant as to believe that we are alone in the whole universe.

While I crawl out of my bellybutton, here’s a bit of Te Deum Laudamus for you to enjoy. I’ve been thinking about my years as a chorister in secondary school. There might or might not be a story to come from this angle.

We praise thee, O God :
    we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
    the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud :
    the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubim and Seraphim :
    continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy :
    Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty :
    of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world :
    doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
    thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
    thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
    whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.

O Lord, save thy people :
    and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us :
    as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted :
    let me never be confounded.