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Liminal Anansi: Symbol of Order and Chaos An Exploration of Anansi's Roots Amongst the Asante of Ghana

Emily Zobel Marshall
Caribbean Quarterly
Vol. 53, No. 3 (September 2007), pp. 30-40
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40654609
Page Count: 11
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Liminal Anansi: Symbol of Order and Chaos An Exploration of Anansi's Roots Amongst the Asante of Ghana
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Abstract

Anansi is a complex and intriguing figure who has woven a fine tapestry of tales across the New World. Born in West Africa, Anansi survived a cultural metamorphosis and became symbolic of the struggles of the black slave. Like Anansi, the slaves worked at overturning the structured hierarchy of their environment and, from their harsh experience, coded strategies of survival. However, there is little reliable information regarding the roots of this cunning trickster hero. Where exactly did Kwaku Anansi come from, and what role did he play in his country and culture of origin? Anansi's stories were told by several Akan ethnic groups, such as the Fante, but it was the Asante who enjoyed cultural and political dominance in this region. This article will show how Anansi reflected key elements of Asante thought and culture. Not only were the Anansi stories implemented as a vehicle for political discourse, but he was tightly bound to traditional Asante religious belief. Anansi was a mediator between mankind on earth and the Asante gods of sky. He was a chaotic and Iiminal force, bridging the gap between culture and nature and testing the boundaries of Asante society by reeking havoc in their highly structured world. An exploration of Anansi's role in the rich cultural history of the Asante will reveal the original content, context and significance of the stories and uncover the reasons for the survival of this captivating trickster hero in the New World.

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