The My-Stery: Mermaids (or Aquatic Apes?)…


Mami Wata Source: Maggie

If you know me, you know I like to watch channels like National Geographic, The Discovery Channel and The History Channel. And you know what’s interesting — when a channel that has shows that tend to stick to facts, does speculative specials, like what I saw on Sunday, Mermaids: The Body Found.

The docufiction was similar to many of the alien coverup conspiracies, which are that mermaid bodies were found and the government and the navy were seizing them and any evidence of them (sidenote: I didn’t know it was a docufiction until later — it doesn’t make it explicit that it is except with a small disclaimer — yet I kinda guessed it was because the filming was too stylized for a documentary, specifically in the amateur video portions).

But even though the documentary was fake and some of the science mentioned in it is not actually biologically possible, it was fun hearing different theories about the development of mermaids and also the inclusion of how many cultures around the world have myths about mermaids. The creators interwoven some of the water-related theories about humans with myths about mermaids, mostly the scientifically sidelined aquatic ape hypothesis. The hypothesis has been used as a possible explanation for why humans cry, why we are fairly hairless in comparison to other primates, why babies can automatically swim, and how humans beings stood straight up in the first place. They also mentioned how a group of land animals returned to the water, which was millions of years ago, later connecting it a hypothesis that a section of humans broke off, returned to the water and became mermaids.

Hearing that, I immediately thought of the Future Weird showcase of The Black Atlantic, which featured two films based on the Drexciya myth — an imaginary underwater land populated by the unborn children of pregnant African women thrown off of slave ships and who adapted to breathing underwater. This myth gives a different look at the kind of speculative science mentioned in docufiction. But these do make me think about why we have such a strong connection to water, which I saw in the films at the showcase: our spiritual connection to it, like in the video of the baptism, the memories associated with it, like in Say Grace Before Drowning, the mysterious and captivating beings in it, like in Jonah and Nkiru, part of our fantastical subconscious, like in Inner Cruise, the violent histories associated with it that often others attempt to was away, like in Castles and Fisherfolk, what and who is left behind when it’s gone, like in Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Drexciya, or our search for an Atlantic (in terms of both transatlantic slave trade and Atlantis) return to utopia, like in Simon Rittmeier’s Drexciya.

Check out my Under the Sea playlist!

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One thought on “The My-Stery: Mermaids (or Aquatic Apes?)…”

  1. For serious information on ‘aquatic apes’ (better terms are Littoral Theory or Coastal Dispersal Model), please google ‘greg laden blog verhaegen’ or ‘econiche Homo’: Homo populations during the Ice Ages followed coasts & rivers, collecting different waterside & shallow aquatic plant & animal foods.
    Human Evolution soon publishes the proceedings of the symposium with David Attenborough on human waterside evolution ‘Human Evolution: Past, Present & Future’ in London 8-10 May 2013:
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 1 (end 2013)
    Introduction – Peter Rhys-Evans
    1. Human’s Association with Water Bodies: the ‘Exaggerated Diving Reflex’ and its Relationship with the Evolutionary Allometry of Human Pelvic and Brain Sizes – Stephen Oppenheimer
    2. Human Ecological Breadth: Why Neither Savanna nor Aquatic Hypotheses can Hold Water – JH Langdon
    3. Endurance Running versus Underwater Foraging: an Anatomical and Palaeoecological Perspective – Stephen Munro
    4. Wading Hypotheses of the Origin of Human Bipedalism – Algis Kuliukas
    5. The Aquatic Ape Evolves: Common Misconceptions and Unproven Assumptions about the So-Called Aquatic Ape Hypothesis – Marc Verhaegen
    6. The Epigenetic Emergence of Culture at the Coastline: Interaction of Genes, Nutrition, Environment and Demography – CL Broadhurst & Michael Crawford
    SPECIAL EDITION PART 2 (begin 2014) with 12 contributions

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