Framed print of Mammy Houegnon; glass broken
Colour lithograph of a snake charmer printed in Bombay probably for the West African market. Originals of this lithograph were made by Arnold Schleisinger in Hamburg between 1880 and 1887. Subsequent editions of the lithograph were made by the Shree Ram Calendar Company in Bombay in the 1950s, initially on the request of a merchant from Kumasi in Gold Coast (now Ghana). The great success of this lithograph in West Africa led to a large market for Indian prints of Hindu deities. Asian imagery spread in West Africa by Lebanese, Indian and Chinese traders was frequently associated with commercial success as well as material and spiritual wellbeing. Drewal, 1988, 183 has identified indigenous African appropriations of this same lithograph in 14 countries and in 41 different cultures or cultural contexts. In most cases, in West Africa at least, the appropriated imagery belongs to a constellation of water spirit possession cults with the generic name of Mami Wata, in which the spirit takes the visual form of a mermaid-like being, half fish and half woman, or a woman whose legs are always hidden.