From the shore, a wave is a mere ripple in the distance. As it rolls towards you, gaining momentum and might, it forms and barrels with a unique blend of blues. When it finally makes land, and its foam envelops your feet, and its mist brushes past your face, the feeling is inescapable.
Cultural waves aren’t dissimilar. You can’t see them coming from too far out. But once they approach the shores of mass culture, you can’t help but let them pull you in. Mami Wata, a brand you won’t soon be able to ignore, intends to bring African art and surf to shore. From Madagascar to Morocco, Liberia to Mozambique, Mami Wata is on a mission to be a creative force for good in Africa. Here, creative director and artist Peet Peinaar, tells us exactly how they plan to do just that.
Mami Wata
Natalie Stoclet: Let’s start from the beginning. What is the historical relationship between art and surf?
Peet Peinaar: One of the most linked images in art and surf is The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, a woodblock print made in 1831 by Japanese artist Hokusai. In the 1960s and 70s, a material shift in surfboards to fiberglass, styrofoam, and polyurethane foam, was directly influenced by designers and artists like Eero Aarnio. At the same time, images like John Van Hammersveld’s iconic Endless Summer began to make their way into popular culture. In 1978, Michael Tomson and Joel Cooper launched Gotcha, the first real lifestyle surf brand, which played a massive role in the general aesthetics of the 80s. David Carson’s Ray Gun magazine, which covered mostly alternative music and surf cultures, greatly influenced graphic design into the 90s, when we saw artist Raymond Pettibon bring surf into the contemporary art world. What followed was a lull period influenced by hipster culture and a nostalgic Pinterest aesthetic. But from the start, African art and design were excluded from the narrative.
NS: In what ways can visual storytelling bring people closer to African art and surf?
PP: Social media and digital publications have become a means to generate income within surf. Followers, fame, and film play a massive role for us in a very competitive visual space. You see a lot of surfers being followed by teams of filmmakers and photographers, and visa versa, with surfers being invited by filmmakers to join on a trip to create content. What is new now is that there is a growing group of filmmakers, writers, and photographers finding extraordinary stories within surf. People want to know more about the person surfing now, and the untold stories in Africa bring freshness to that world.
Mami Wata
NS: Can you explain Afrosurfonomics?
PP: When a place has a great surf break, let’s say in some remote location in Gabon, that break has the potential to generate sustainable income for the community living there. It’s surf tourism. We believe that if done right, surf can play a massive economic role in Africa similar to the role a ski slope plays in Europe.
NS: How does art amplify that economic opportunity?
PP: If a film, painting, or song is made about a break in Gabon, it entices people to travel there and experience it for themselves. It not only informs people about the place, it also has the power to tell a different story about Africa that we haven’t seen before.
Mami Wata
NS: The coastline of Africa is 18,950 miles long—where are your favorite places to see the intersection of art and surf?
PP: There are so many, but I would have to say my favorites are Dakar in Senegal and Dixcove in Ghana.
NS: What do you want people to know about African art?
PP: I want people to consider African art as artnot excluded or in a box as African but as part of the conversation in its entirety.
NS: Mami Wata’s slogan is “The Power of African Surf”—what does that mean to you?
PP: Forgive the pun, but there is a massive wave of culture coming from Africa, and it has started to hit the world. Africa is not a distant opaque continent anymore, it’s part of the globalized world as we know it. As we reconnect, we’re bringing thousands of years of culture and art that had previously been excluded. Surf is one of the many overlapping connections between the West and Africa. I strongly believe that this overlap is where our power lies.
Mami Wata
NS: How do you think the worlds of art and surf will continue to merge in the future?
PP: The future is merged. Globalization does not happen by living in the same neighborhood, it happens within common interests like art, work, music, and sport. It’s the point where parallel worlds connect and break into one. It’s where the other becomes us. When the common interest is surf, Africa has the opportunity to lead because it brings a fresh approach more in line with the times.

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