(painting by Moyo Ogundipe, 1999, image courtesy of NY Times)
Aside from real manatees, I'm also fascinated by the Mamiwata spirit that many people believe is embodied by the manatee. Mamiwata is depicted as a woman, mermaid, seductess, even women's labor union organizer as well as many other forms, both in Africa and the Caribbean. My friend Sarah recently alerted me to a Mamiwata art exhibition currently going on at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington DC, which just got a nice review in the NY Times. The NY Times link also has some cool images of on the art on display, if you can't get to DC.