Ananse Arts is named after the popular stories about a spider-god, Anansi or Ananse.
Anansi often takes the shape of a spider, but is also appears in his original human form and is considered to be the god of all knowledge of stories. He is also one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore. The stories were first told in Ghana by the Ashanti people and are extremely popular in Jamaica and many other parts of the West Indies. West Africans originally considered Anansi to be the creator of the world and he was often called Kwaku or Kweku Ananse. In some stories Anansi is the son of Nyame, the sky god, who becomes so annoyed with his son’s mischief and trickery that he turns him into a spider. Anansi often acted as a communicator between humans in their dealings with the sky god Nyame. It is believed that Anansi persuaded Nyame to give both rain and the night to people.
Anansi stories were told by elders to pass down knowledge and moral messages to the younger generations. Sometimes the stories were acted out by the storyteller, or even sung with dancing and drumming. Anansi, the spider, pits his cunning (usually with success) against superior strength. Anansi stories are part of an ancient mythology which concerns the interaction between divine and semi-divine beings, royalty, humans, animals, plants and seemingly inanimate objects. These stories continue to provide a moral foundation for the community.
There are many narratives of power in the life of Ananse. He is credited in some stories with the creation of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Planets. In others, it is said that Ananse is the one who brought writing, agriculture, and hunting to Earth, teaching humans in the process how to take care of themselves. Ananse once collected all of the wisdom of the world in a calabash to hold for himself because he did not trust humans with such potent knowledge and information. However, wisdom kept spilling out of the calabash, and he soon saw how futile it was for one person to try to know everything and to hold it for himself. In fact, it is far better, as Ananse understood, for knowledge and wisdom to be distributed among all people, so that is exactly what he did.