In Ghana “Kwaku Ananse” is the heartbeat of oral story telling especially among the Akan speaking people. Spanning centuries, his exploits have regaled many a child, used as an informal teaching tool for morality and cunning.
He certainly is no god in Ghanaian culture but manifested into such as his tales crossed into the Caribbean and other parts of the new world.
The New World includes the United states where Neil Gaiman depicted him as an African trickster god in his best-selling novel American Gods. The TV version of the novel has opened on Starz with Orlando Jones’ turn as Anansi/Mr. Nancy receiving rave reviews for his portrayal of the trickster in the opening scene of the second episode of the show.
Speaking to journalist Vinnie Mancuso, Jones said of his portrayal:
“My research was more about wanting it to be true to the Ashanti people, their colors, the tribal colors. He’s a god, he’s royalty, that generally means purple,” Jones remembered.
“But then how do you deliver a message that makes people believe? Ultimately, the core premise of American Gods is, ‘What do you believe?’ And how your beliefs can be manifested into reality.”
It was interesting watching a primarily Ghanaian folk hero/god responding to the Igbo prayers of the slaves in a “purple suit of royalty” considering the Asantes do not consider purple a royal color.
A true homage to the Asante people as claimed by Jones might have considered that their collars are gold and green. But then again Ananse was also an African-American folk hero so his look in the scene could be forgiven.
With a lot more episodes to be released, Ghana will be keeping an eye on the appropriation of Ananse as sons his web on American Gods.