What Are Anansi and Mami Wata in Nanny, Explained

Prime Video’s ‘Nanny’ follows the story of a black woman named Aisha, who starts working as a nanny for a white family. She intends to make enough money to bring her son, Lamine, to America from Senegal. Things start rather well as she becomes hopeful about reuniting with her son soon. However, a recurrence of mysterious visions makes things twisted and scary for her. Aisha starts getting confused between what’s real and what’s not, which impedes her daily life. Eventually, she discovers that she is being haunted by a water spirit called Mami Wata and another creature called Anansi. Who are they and what is their significance in the movie? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD

Anansi and Mami Wata: West African Tricksters

Anansi and Mami Wata are mythical creatures that appear in West African folklore. Anansi is a spidery creature who is known for being a trickster. Being physically weak than others, he has to rely on his wit and cunning to overpower his enemies. Mami Wata, on the other hand, is associated with water. She is like a mermaid, half-human, half-fish, and known to have the power to create as well as destroy. She can bring wealth and prosperity to a person, but can also be the cause of their destruction.

Malik’s grandmother tells Aisha that seeing Mami Wata and Anansi means a huge change in Aisha’s life. She needs to pay heed to them because they often come with warning signs. She says that the intention of these creatures is to cause disruption of the dominant forces which often stand in a person’s way. They don’t necessarily mean bad things for a person, even if their presence might be causing all sorts of scares and inconvenience, to say the least. She advises Aisha to figure out what they want for her rather than from her.

Eventually, it is revealed that both Mami Wata and Anansi want things to change for the better for Aisha. She starts having visions of Mami Wata after the last message from her son, in which he talks about going to the beach. Unbeknownst to Aisha, this is when Lamine died. However, her cousin didn’t tell her about it because she knew that it would break Aisha, whose only reason to leave Senegal was to build a better future for her son.

Mami Wata’s effect on Aisha starts to show whenever she is close to water, be it the running water in the shower or the deep water of the river. Her most potent vision comes inside the swimming pool where she actually sees the mermaid creature and is drowned by it. This continues until she finds out about the death of her son. Similarly, the spider starts showing up in her dreams when she starts to have trouble dealing with her employers.

When she was first employed by Amy, Aisha was happy to have found a job and wished to stick to it for as long as possible. Soon, however, Amy starts to make Aisha work overtime and never really pays her for it. Aisha often finds herself staying with Rose hours after her shift was supposed to have ended. First, she complains about it to Adam, hoping that he will sort things out with Amy. But that doesn’t work as well. This puts Aisha in a very precarious position, one that looks a lot like Anansi’s.

Anansi is supposed to be physically weak, which is why he uses his cunning to give himself a better fighting chance. Aisha, too, is in a position of disadvantage with her employers. She is a black woman, an immigrant, miles away from her home and her son, with no one to help her. In comparison, her employers are rich, white people who seem good at evading Aisha’s concerns about her pay, whenever she brings up the topic. The spider, thus, wants her to be stronger and fight for what she is owed. But that’s not it.

At one point, Rose tells Aisha that it is Lamine showing up as Anansi. He is the one causing the hallucination, playing tricks on her, because he is jealous. Aisha doesn’t understand it at first, but when we find out that her son is dead, it makes sense that his spirit would show up, wanting the attention that she couldn’t give him all this time. Considering all this, it can be deduced that both Mami Wata and Anansi are the manifestations of Aisha’s own grief and struggles. They are more of a mirror to her rather than malevolent forces seeking destruction.

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