Sunday, February 10, 2019


© 2019 by Michael Auld

In African American History Month
Above: Kweku Anansi the Spider-man — by the author. Asanti, Jamaican and Caribbean folk hero who appeared among South Carolina’s Sea Islands in Aunt Nancy Stories. 

“When we read the history of people of African descent in the Americas who came from their old homes on the continent, the story of their journey often begins with slavery or ends with despair.
Sometimes we learn about the rich heritage of African music. Or emotional outlets provided through gospel music, the blues, jazz, rock & roll, salsa, calypso, reggae, rap, and more.“ 

However, the art of storytelling is often overlooked.
Above: Storyboard panel of an African storyteller from an idea from "How Anansi Came to the Americas from Africa" -- by the author
Yet, African storytelling survives in many parts of the world today. Some stories remain exactly as they were told many centuries ago. The purpose remains the same. They are morality stories that teach people how to live amicably in this world.

In Ghana’s Akan language, Twi, “Anansi” means “spider”. “Kweku” is similar to “Wednesday’s Child”. Kweku Anansi’s stories are called...
Ananse-sem” means that ALL stories belong to Anansi. His stories are not necessarily age specific. However, some stories can be risque, but their morals belong to everyone. These morals come in the form of a proverb.

“It is the willing horse that they saddle the most”. -- A cautionary Jamaican self-explanatory proverb that would appear in an AnansiStory.

In one of his sagas, Anansi had won the title of “Keeper of All Stories” from his father, N’yame the Great Sky god. His mother, Asase Ya, was the Great Earth Mother. Their son, Anansi, the offspring of a sky god and the earth mother goddess, was turned into a spider-man because of his disobedience towards his father. The lesson here was that Anansi, as a spider who dwelled in a web is a go-between air and ground god, free to move around on a suspended web whose filaments were connected to the animate and inanimate. 

In the realm of spider mythology, “Among the Hopi of Arizona, USA, Spider Woman's web connects all things in the Universe.”—

Called the Web of Life, spiders’ filaments in both hemispheres, has had both spiritual and philosophical connotations. With these characteristics associated with Anansi, how does a writer create contemporary plots around this ancient folkloric figure?


Æsop was an enslaved Ethiopian owned by a Greek. He and his African stories are legendary since they helped to be an integral part of the European morality. "Their ethical dimension was reinforced in the adult world through depiction in sculpture, painting and other illustrative means, as well as adaptation to drama and song. In addition, there have been reinterpretations of the meaning of fables and changes in emphasis over time". [Wikipedia].To see more of his stories go to-- 


My first attempt at writing for Anansi was in 1968 when my Anansesem comic strip was envisioned and published. The Jamaican newspaper, The Gleaner Company, took a chance on me. 
I had prepared a flyer on my Anansesem comic strip idea and got an appointment with a New York syndicate. At the meeting with the representative, he said,

“I love your idea. My kids would also love it. But, most of our newspapers are in the Midwest ad they would not like anything African.”

So, I did what was recommended when one is turned down. I turned to my hometown. In the 1970s, Africa was becoming in vogue in the Diaspora.

In an attempt to Africanize the comic strip, I had begun to research Anansi’s history and the West African visual aesthetics that lend itself more closely to a cartoon figurative style and proportions. So, although Anansi was Asanti, I chose Yoruba figures from the Benin bronze plaque tradition. Anansi’s face and the other characters in the strip were fashioned after these Benin bronzes.

Above: A traditional bronze plaque from Benin, Nigeria.

The aim was to return a more authentic African voice and traditions to a spider-man separated from the continent for 400 years.
For example, Jamaica’s Bra Tiger was returned to the traditional Osebo the Leopard.
One of Anansi’s sons that came with him to Jamaican folklore was his youngest, Intukuma, whom Jamaicans called Takooma.

All of the Anansi comic strip stories published by the island’s newspaper’s Gleaner Company were in an original continuous story format. They were weekly three-panel excerpts for the evening tabloid, The Star.

Above: B and W weekly Anansesem newspaper panel from the story "How Anansi Came To The Americas From Africa".

Above: A historic Anansesem comic strip panel of the published story, Anansi’s Golden Stool of Asanti.” This was based on the historical story of how Osei Tutu became Asantehene or king and formed the formidable Asanti Confederacy. Here it illustrates how the Golden Stool descended from Heaven and perched on Osei Tutu’s knees at a gathering in Kumasi on a Friday.--

Above: Cover of the first Anansi book, published in 1899 by Pamela Colman Smith, whose father was an American while her mother was Jamaican.

Above: Pamela Colman Smith with some of her Tarot Cards. She was one of the first women to enter Prat Institute in New York City.

Anansi books are not only just a collection of traditional tales, but continue to his youngest son, Intikuma “Ticky-Ticky” Anansi. Part one of this trilogy is about a young quarter-spider boy’s search for his wayward father, Anansi.

Above: Book cover design of Anansi’s son’s search for him. The cover includes Taino mythological entities such as; a spinning  Hurakan; skull-like Coaybay, Island of the Dead and its sister Island of the Setting Sun; the Island of Women; and the Island of Gold.

Ticky-Ticky is a twelve-year-old with a secret: He is the youngest son of the infamous trickster Anansi the Spider-man. Hiding in the human world, Ticky-Ticky fears his father’s enemies will recognize and punish him for being the butt of Anansi’s embarrassing pranks. 
Now, the joke’s on Ticky-Ticky. A school incident forces him to follow his missing father’s footsteps on a dangerous quest across time and reality. Riding a magical ghost-bat canoe with a dog of the dead as his guide, Ticky-Ticky encounters Anansi’s folkloric foes out for revenge. After a lifetime of avoiding his father’s legacy, can Ticky-Ticky find his father before he loses his life or even worse: becomes just like him?-- The back cover with an introduction to“Ticky-Ticky’s QUEST”.-- 

Anansi and his Jamaican family live in an island whose indigenous population called themselves “Yamaye”, the source of the name Jamaica. Part one of this trilogy begins in Jamaica while Part II (currently in production) is where African and indigenous Taíno mythologies converge.

Above: Ticky-Ticky (L) next to his friend, Iggy Iguana, discussing a school related problem. Iggy is an indigenous shape-shifting Taíno iguana, while Ticky-Ticky is Anansi’s quarter-spider son.

Above: Makaetauri Guayaba, the Caribbean’s God of the Afterlife and the large image of a guava behind him, a fruit that represented the “Sweetness of Life”.

Above: An illustration of Guabancex, Angry Goddess of the Hurakan, Rider of the Winds, with her twin accomplices, Guatua-BA the Herald (the thunder and lightning) who announces her pending arrival. Along with Coatrisque the Deluge, or the Surge....Just  before snatching Ticky-Ticky out of the airborne bat-canoe. Then she deposited him on Matinino, the Island of Women. —

Many Jamaican AnansiStories include Taíno cultural retentions. Whenever, corn, sweet potatoes, geneps, pumpkins, peppers, etc. are mentioned, Taíno foods are introduced, making the story a truly indigenous Jamaican (Yamaye) AnansiStory.
Above: Illustration of a traditional story, titled “Anansi and the Yam Hills.” Mrs. Guinea-fowl stands on an Taíno styled dirt mound from the Taíno "conuco(garden). The "hill" is planted with African yams.

Ticky-Ticky’s QUEST: 
Travel to Turtle Island”

Above: Currently in production, Part II of the search for Anansi. Ticky-Ticky is surrounded by ancient North American spider gorget images that were found on carved quahog clam shells.

TICKY-TICKY’S QUEST (Part II): Back and Front covers with an image of "Turtle Island", the Native American name for their continent. They believed that, from the air, the continent was shaped like a giant turtle.

All because of an infraction in his high school, TICKY-TICKY’S QUEST (Part II), “Travel to Turtle Island” is a continuation of a young Spider-boy’s relentless search to find his notorious wayward father, Kweku Anansi the Spider-man.

"Falling into the hands of a voodoo man, he was forced to enter the ancient Caribbean’s spirit world. With the loan of the Lord of the Dead’s bat-canoe and his dog, Opiel, Ticky-Ticky is allowed to traverse time, space and different realities.
Having traveled through the Caribbean’s Spirit World with Opiel, the Hunting Dog of the Dead, without a scratch, but with clues of his father’s cold trail, Ticky-Ticky is taken to Turtle Island. On Turtle Island, the ancient Native American name for North America, there are many spider families. There he hopes to find Anansi who himself has gone there on some cockamamie search for rich American spider relatives.
Will he survive the trials and tribulations such as the man-eating Algonquian shape-shifting monster, the Windigo?"-- TICKY-TICKY’S QUEST: Travel to Turtle Island

Look out for the publication date.

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