An illustration of a spider walking over a landscape, there are hills and a river

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Finding common sense with Ananse, the West African spider-god

Every culture in the world has at least one mythical character who, in some way, represents wisdom, knowledge or just plain common sense.

Ananse, also spelled Anansi and Anancy, is one such folk hero of the African heritage diaspora. Half-human and half-spider, Ananse was created surrounded by wisdom, but in forgetting who he was went and lost it all.

'Sankofa', a wisdom principle from his Akan culture meaning 'go and fetch it', inspires Ananse to reach out to the nature connections within indigenous and traditional world cultures.

As a knowledge seeker, Ananse learns much from what has gone before. Human elders and ancient trees all have wisdom they can share. 

Watch the Ananse story

This story is told through the artwork of the young people of St Thomas School in London and story-teller Mama D Ujuaje of Community Centred Knowledge, created as part of the Urban Nature Project

Hear more about Ananse from Caribbean elders

This short animation highlights our visit to the Pepper Pot Centre in Ladbroke Grove, London, where we shared folk hero Ananse stories and listened to memories of growing up in the Caribbean while we shared food, drink and song together and celebrated the traditional stories that are the foundations for future generations.

Both of the above films were animated by early career artists Ma’at á Nkemi, Josie Owen and Maha Shami, who worked at the Museum as part of the Kickstart scheme.

Ananse has many other tales to tell as he is known as the keeper of stories - what other stories can you find?

Find out more about Ananse and Akan culture: