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The river spirit who won’t be ignored

Words: Anne-Marie Hoeve

Film clip and trailer: WaterBear

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Meet Mame Coumba Bang: the mighty shapeshifting spirit of the Senegal River. For years she has protected her people, but now she seems angry. Discover why in this short documentary.

Where the Senegal River spills into the Atlantic Ocean you’ll find the bustling city of Saint-Louis. An island city and sea port, it’s also home to a river spirit by the name of Mame Coumba Bang. 

She is not the kind of spirit that you want to mess with. The people of Saint-Louis live in awe of her power, for they believe that Mame Coumba Bang can control the dangerous currents of the river they depend on. But now, as the effects of the climate crisis are being felt, locals believe that the frequent floods and fewer fish are sure signs of her wrath. Perhaps it’s time to uphold their end of a deal struck with the spirit many moons ago, according to the legend. A deal that centres on respect for the river.

This is the story of Mame Coumba Bang: Genie of the River – a new mini-documentary from free streaming platform WaterBear. The film explores the deep cultural relationship with our environment. 

Our modern economy has turned its back on the sacred and spiritual dimensions to nature,” says Nicolas Brown, the documentary’s director. “We see nature as a resource to be exploited for our benefit, with no independent right to exist. I wanted to make this film to see if we can rekindle the fires of myth and remind people that we don’t own the natural world, nor do we have all the answers.”

This is the second film in Brown’s Living Story series, sharing important stories about indigenous communities and myths that are still incredibly relevant and very much alive today. 

“I hope that people will listen to the message of so many of these ancient myths, which invariably have something to do with respecting the natural world,” Brown says. Sharing these living stories enriches us all, he believes. “They are the connective threads that unite the human family.”

The trailer for Mame Coumba Bang

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The full film can be streamed for free on WaterBear, digital platform dedicated to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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