Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Letter to Black Mermaid Productions About African Mermaids

We recently received the following email (reprinted here with permission) and thought it was important to share with you.

Dear Folk at BMP,

Despite the name of your site/company, and much searching else where, I have been unable to find any illustrations of Black, as in African, Mermaids. Caucasian mermaids abound, but African? I live in West Africa for much of the year and the mermaid legends abound, there are many stretchers [sic] of water where fishermen will not venture in order not to disturb the "Mammi Water" as mermaids are called in Pidgin English. Perhaps this could be soon rectified. My African step daughter frequently asks me why there are no pictures of Black Mermaids like her, she is young enough to believe my stories, but as she gets older it might just occur to her that we have become conditioned into racially stereo typing mermaids.   If you know of any sites of pictures of African mermaids please let me know, or may be one day we will see some really Black Mermaids on your site, not silhouettes of white ones.   I am a commercial diver by trade and alas despite years at sea I have never yet seen a mermaid of any colour.


Nick Roddy 


Hi Nick,

Thanks for your email. You've brought up a very important topic and we hope we can answer it and perhaps give you and your stepdaughter some hope in your quest to discover some African-inspired mermaids.

Historically, we named our business Black Mermaid Productions because we wanted "mermaid" in the name and then we thought of allocating her a "word" (text) colour to distinguish her from other businesses with mermaid in their name  – we tested all colour variations by saying them out loud and decided that 'black mermaid' sounded the best. We all evoked wonderful mental images of what she could look like and a good feeling from that name. Jozef then designed the fantasy-like logo silhouette because we essentially work in the fantasy comics genre and it resonated with the essence of our brand. Our logo is a silhouette but we have never attributed a real-life colour to her if. Indeed if she was spotlighted – her "in the light" colour is really in the eyes of the beholder who can endow her in any way he or she likes.

We have two mermaid properties we are working on – Elf~Fin (mer-elves) and Mermist Seas (our spin on traditional mermaids). When we put together our cast in both projects we actually sat down to consciously make sure we represented different archetypes, different ages, different body shapes, different skin colours and cultural diversity that parallels the world we humans live in. 

In Elf~Fin: Hyfus and Tilaweed, the closest representation in the first issue we have to an 'African black mermaid'  is the character of Barrha who is one of the Elders in the first community we visit (see: http://blackmermaidproductions.blogspot.com/2009/02/elffin-leaks-peeks-5.html). 

In the second issue our cultural mix will become very obvious in the second community we visit.  

These characters have more of an animation design to them than our second property – Mermist Seas – which will not be published for several years. Our character Korozon is the closest we can show you at the moment to what we think an African merman may look like but we will assure you that there will be many "black mermaids" in the story. You can see Korozon in the top colour horizontal panel as he swims underwater on http://www.blackmermaid.com/spheres2.html

You can also see another character Tiro in our limited edition print (see above.)

We are working on the notion that Elf~Fin: Hyfus and Tilaweed will be published in the latter half of 2010. This is aimed at adults.

However, the second book in the series – The Wells of Shekimminon – features children as the major characters so hopefully the story will appeal to your step daughter and also provide her with the black mermaids she is hoping to find in books.

The information about the Mammi Water is fascinating and we're certainly going to research this area of mermaid mythology because neither of us are familiar with it. Thanks for the tip.

In the meantime, we think this is a very important topic so do we have your permission to reproduce your letter on our blog with our corresponding answer? 

Julie and Jozef


Andre said...

Its so good seeing comics diversifying. I love fantasy and im generally relegated to seeing only european type characters in that genre, so im excited to see dark skinned, racially diverse characters. Im a huge fan of ur artwork and excited for ur upcoming projects.

Black Mermaid Productions said...

Thanks for your comments, Andre. We working hard to bring you and our other readers a diverse group of mer-elves and traditional mermaids because we believe there's an innate splendour in cultural diversity.

Andrew Shaw said...

http://damaliabrams.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/amphibians-and-black-mermaid.html There is a book called 'Amphibians and the black mermaid'! See the blogspot article.

Black Mermaid Productions said...

Thanks, Andrew, the book looks interesting and we enjoyed reading about the author from Trinidad.