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Who Is Anansi?

By Amber Coles

Anansi, the spider, the weaver, the storyteller: A lovely tagline, but who is Anansi?

He goes by many names: Ananese, Aunt Nancy, Nanzi, etc., but whatever his name, he is one of the most prominent figures in West Africa. You see, Anansi can change form, being depicted as a human or, more commonly, as a spider. The answer as to why he often appears as a spider lies in one of his characteristics, and one of his fables of origin. He is touted amongst the people because of his wisdom, intelligence and intuition, but Anansi is also known as a trickster. It is his trickster personality that “teaches moral, ethical, political, or social values based on his ability to lead a person to the truth through example, puzzles, and the least-expected turns and twists of fate,” according to

One of the most famous stories of Anansi deals with the dilemma of too much knowledge. Anansi was named the King of All Wisdom Narratives by Nyame, the Sky God, in another tale, and he seemed to take that title seriously as he gathered all the wisdom in the world in a calabash, or gourd, to hoard for himself. A distrust in what humans would do with all that knowledge led to his decision. But the knowledge kept spilling out of his calabash. This made Anansi think, “Should one person hold all the knowledge of the world?” He figured it would be far better to share the knowledge with the world and so he emptied his calabash, distributing it all across Earth.

So what does this mean for us as a people now? Well, we want the creatives that will be responsible for creation of “Anansi’s Story Festival” to take the spirit of Anansi and go beyond. We want to hear who they are, how they see the world and provoke thought in all of us who come to experience the festival. If this sounds like you, head over to our application page to learn more.

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