The lore of Ananse: A Ghanaian story about a master storyteller

June 20, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Culture

Nii Ashaley Asé Ashiley

Nii Ashaley Asé Ashiley | Contributor

June 20, 2019 at 04:00 pm | Culture

Image source: amoafowaa.com

“When there are elders in the house, the young quickly grow in experience.” – An Afrikan Proverb.

I met Ananse yesterday on the streets of Adanse, just behind the old school factory where the word-smiths are skilled at forging compliance out of rebellion. He laid there, silently buried on the lips of his successors. Our conversation was animated and crisp, it wielded a quiet considerable depth.

For those who by virtue of the circumstances surrounding their birth have been moved to inquire into the ‘who’ and ‘what’ of what ‘Ananse’ can possibly be, I more than glad to share with you this…

Ananse is portrayed as a mythical figure whose essence is confined within the wisdom gap of the Akans; a proudly powerful ethnic community flourishing on the soils of Ghana, West Africa. His visual representation is that of a spider-man, but without the costume and Mary Jane.

Kwaku Ananse, as he is affectionately hailed by the sons and daughters of Ghana is a creative trickster, probably the mythical equivalence to Loki; a god of mischief in Norse mythology. Ananse carries in him the gift of the gab; a word-smith whose quick wit and verbal fluidity accords him the ease of access into the minds and skins of his adversary, gaining the upper hand time and time again.

Ananse and me drew from his exploits, tale of exploits; he told me a story of how he boldly approached God one fateful day and requested of Him to make him the master of storytelling. He was then tasked by God to bring forth a live; python, cheetah and hornet to prove himself worthy of the title.

He said; “I walked across the length and breadth of the Earth until I found a humongous python sleeping in the heart of the forbidden forest in Dahomey. I woke him up and told him a story of how his wife had gone about the entire forest telling the animal kingdom of how her husband was shorter than the Neem tree sitting in their courtyard, and that I had been delegated by the elders to ascertain the truth of her claims. The python quickly ushered me into his courtyard, apprehensive about his reputation as the longest animal in the kingdom he quickly sized himself up with the Neem tree in his courtyard to prove the falsehood of his wife’s gossip. I nimbly tied him up with a rope I had been concealing in my anus all along, uprooted the tree with my might and sent him to God…”

“…I knew the cheetah was the fastest animal in the kingdom having to chase after him for twelve good years before facing off with him. I dug a hole along a race track he tasked me to create if I am to dare him to a race and covered it with dried herbs. On the day of the race, he bolted ahead of me like lightning and dropped into the hole I had prepared for his capture earlier on. I approached him where he lay within the ground, covered him with my web and took him to God…”

“…the hornet was the tricky part, but I bested it. Word from the animal kingdom had it that she was nesting in a hut situated close to the edge of the Earth, so I walked for three years without rest, water or food till I got to her abode. I had come with a gourd hollowed out for her capture. At night when she was asleep, I snuck close to the hut, climbed it and silently removed all the thatch roofing it. After that, I hung the gourd from her window sill, walked away a few distances and shouted; ‘Rain!’ ‘Rain!’ ‘Rain!’. She woke up startled of the sound of rain, looked up and saw no covering on her roof, so she mindlessly darted into the opening in the gourd for cover. I quickly covered up the opening of the gourd and sent her to God, then I was entitled.” These were his final words with a smile on his face.

Myriad of interpretations can be ascribed to this ancient tale and mine is no different; that however tough, fast or tricky life may get, originality, initiative and persistence shall be the tickets to where all the righteous are led.

So go on, tell everybody that Ananse just dropped the clay pot containing the world’s wisdom from atop the palm tree, and that there is enough for everybody.

Go on, do it with an inborn fire, on a night when the sky is ether-black and the Moon is star bright. Let that be your manna and your light. You and all of your brothers and sisters, sit in a circle of life and allow your finest orator tell you of your stories.

Stories woven in the past to hold the understanding of present and future generations. Stories forged on the hilltops of Mesopotamia by the Sumerian Kings, nurtured in the Nile Valley by the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and ferried around the world by the Mycenaean of the Aegean. All hail the ones before us, they have done well.

As I stood to take leave of him he said; “this is my story which I have narrated, if it be sweet or if it be not sweet, take some elsewhere, and let some come back to me.”

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