Western Australia’s mermaid community — yes, there is one — has welcomed the inclusion of a male ‘merman’ to a tourist hotspot hoping to promote inclusiveness.
- The origin of mermaid mythology has been traced as far back as 1,000 BC
- Now found around the world, professional mermaids and ‘merfolk’ first emerged around 2004
- Australia’s mermaid scene is thriving, but a custom-made silicone tail can cost up to $3,500
Anthony Prum, otherwise known as Merman Inky, put on his first show at Busselton Jetty’s underwater observatory alongside seasoned performer Sherrie Daniels, who is otherwise known as Mermaid Nixie.
The venue put out an open call for a male performer earlier this year, with Mr Prum getting the nod over several other contenders.
“We have a very diverse ‘mermaiding’ community in Western Australia and everyone is very accepting,” Mr Prum told the ABC after his maiden swim.
“We have all sorts of mermaids — we have goth mermaids, pixie mermaids and everything in between.
“There’s over 150 in WA alone and growing every year.”
Underwater friends Sherri Daniels, AKA Mermaid Nixie, and Anthony Prum, now known as Merman Inky. (ABC South West WA: Anthony Pancia)
A tattoo artist by trade, Mr Prum turned his interest to the underwater world as a way of fusing his interests of snorkelling and ocean conservation.
After making contact with other mermaids, he turned his artistic hand to the field and soon developed his alter ego of Merman Inky, also designing and manufacturing his own elaborate tails.
“Merman Inky is more fun, playful, bubbly and definitely very cheeky” Mr Prum said.
“Whereas Anthony on land is very serious and hard-working.”
‘A step forward’
Merman Inky will join the rotating roster of mermaids at Busselton Jetty over Christmas and into the new year.
Ms Daniels said that while few in numbers, mermen were a welcome addition to the community.
“It adds a wonderful visual element to the show we put on,’ Ms Daniels said.
“It will be great, going forward, to perform alongside Inky and it’s a real step forward for our community.”
Across the sea
Former Miss Germany and now professional mermaid, Katrin ‘Mermaid Kat’ Gray, opened what she says was the world’s first mermaid academy in 2012.
Since then some 7,000 students have gone through the course via clinics in Perth and Germany and elsewhere with the help of instructional literature.
Katrin ‘Mermaid Kat’ Gray performs and tutors internationally. (Supplied: Mermaid Kat/Ian Gray)
Such is the demand in Germany alone, Ms Gray has 14 instructors and performers on the books there and six at her home base in Perth.
She has attended mermaid conventions in Tahiti and the Maldives, and will attend a global gathering in Mexico next year.
Ms Gray has also modelled alongside sharks, crocodiles and whale sharks.
“People think mermaids just splash about and flick our tails around,” Ms Gray said.
“But I can hold my breath for up to three minutes.
“I’ve done work for production companies, television and protesting shark finning.
“I have employees, but it’s more than a business — it’s my life.”
‘Just a bit shy’
Ms Gray’s clinics emphasise water safety and ocean conservation, and while only a minority attendees are male, she suspects there is plenty more interest than the figures show.
“We also manufacture custom-fit tails for adults, and I’d estimate about 20 per cent of orders are for men,” Ms Gray said.
“So while we don’t see too many, there’s no doubting there are many more mermen out there.
“They are just a bit more shy than the girls.”
Ms Gray said the chance to escape was the common thread among prospective merfolk.
“I think in a world that is so full of stress and worries, this allows people to dive into this colourful world and recharge,” she said.
“Many have a stage name and they can switch into that fantasy and just forget about the world for a while.”