Anansi, Myth, and Resistance: Exploring Anansi Folklore as Trangressive Culture during Slavery

Mrinal Rajeev
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


Folk traditions carry with them a deep-rooted sense of history but also an ephemeral fluidity to their contextualization, narratives, and intent. Although always tied to a certain degree of antiquity, folk traditions in their form lend themselves to be reinterpreted and adapted to evolve with a society. In this flexibility lies a unique capability, with folk traditions being employed by disenfranchised communities to understand, comment, escape from, critique, and destabilize domination of power structures. Within the colonial context as European hegemonic control is established on a global scale, the subaltern and the “othered” groups fall back to their folk traditions to rationalize and contest their circumstances. For many West African communities stripped of their heritage, homes, and histories, folk traditions became both an ark to protect and preserve their cultural lineage but also a way to push back against a tyrannical and inhuman system of oppression, exploitation, and erasure. For the Akan peoples of West Africa, the myths of Anansi, the Spider, became both an escape from suffering and an outlet for the emancipation of both mind and body. Anansi who is a trickster folk hero becomes the symbol of not only the struggle of slavery but also a connection to the motherland. His stories of overcoming unimaginable odds and oppressive authority became parallels to the life of a slave, and ignited a spirit of resistance. The purpose of this paper is to understand how Anansi and folk traditions at large evolved during the colonial era, and how Anansi’s myths contributed to resistance movements and thought – through its characterization, narrative framing, subtext, re-contextualization, and self-referential nature.

Keywords: Anansi, folklore, African, colonialism, resistance, culture