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Reclaiming Ananse - An act of reparation
published: Sunday | February 27, 2005

By Amina Blackwood Meeks, Contributor

Amina Blackwood Meeks

"Ananse sem kyiri kasa."

DAT IS how the people up in Ghana write down dem proverb dat mean sey Ananse does not like when we teck him stories and meck "idle talk". In other words dem teck Ananse and storytelling as two very serious business. The first part of the seriousness have to do with the spelling of the name of this deity, for that is what him is which part him come from, a deity, a holy being or ultimate reality.

Talk bout de name first. Plenty Jamaican pikney don't like de name what dem parents give dem, not because anything wrong de name as such but because of how it come outa de other children dem mout. The story is told of a very accomplished Trinidadian who did name him child Daaga after a most illustrious fighter against the system dat kip black people down. In Trinidad dem at least know that such a name is spoken with respect. Not so down here where de man send him child to a supposedly illustrious boys' school. Well use your imagination to cipher out how dem "massacraw" de pikney name and please note, a Jamaican massacraw bears no resemblance to the French word massacre that give would-be English speakers a warm reception.


One Jamaican singer name Pablo Moses did sing a song bout names one time. Him say "Take back yu name and give I fi I name ... Chinese name Chin and Chung, Mcintosh come from Scotland, Indian name Rajah and Gavaskar, I man sure Smith nuh come from Africa, Oh no!" This creature parading as, and sometimes referred to as Anancy nuh come from Africa. Maybe a so comes we get de phrase "gi somebody a bad name", for dat is really a bad name fe my Ananse.

You can imagine de European slave master after him dun ban we from talk how we talk, teck whey we drum for him cudden translate what it was saying till cane piece ketch a fire, teck whey we nice clothes an gi we him tear up scrapsis left-over hand-me-down pan Boxing Day an siddung a amuse himself bout "how delightfully quaint" we soun a try talk like him, hear we grandparents dem a heng on pan dem story and a try figure out what dem talking bout?

De closest ting to what fe him aise custom to a wan hooman name Nancy, for de way dem did reason it, slave cudda never so out of order an bareface fe a talk bout dem have any kind of god after Massa him dun declare sey: "Thou shalt have no other god but me", so is mus him wife or sister or daughter or whosoever female him did have name Nancy dat dem was praising. Great Scott, man, dem name wan likkle spider after wan a we, how harmless could that be? Me can imagine dem in dem arrogance, already a look down dem nose pan hooman, well an tink sey hooman is no more dangerous dan de smallest spider, one puff an it gane. Me can imagine when dem find out sey it nuh so easy fe blow whey dat deh spider, it got extraordinary abilities fe challenge Tiger an defeat him, tie up Snake, ketch one thousand angry bees an put into a calabash, bring wisdom down to earth an odda such national hero status accomplishments, how a deh so de bad name get rampant. Anancy is a very bad name fe Kwaku Ananse.


You tink me can try change a cheque mark Ameenah Blackhood Mix? All when me name spell how me spell it an de people dem see me pitcha inna Gleaner every Sunday, me still haffe produce identification say is me. One time me had to produce passport, voter's card, driver's licence and University eyedee till de goodly person I was trying to do business with find one dat match de signature me did sign pan de original document dem kip in dem vault. Dat a my fault still fe kean write since dem bring in computer. Still in all, people waan fe meck sure who dem dealing with.

Is so me feel bout Ananse. Yu name an how it spell is a very important part of your identification. If police ever bring summons to you with the wrong spelling a good lawyer can meck joke outa him inna courthouse. Ananse bear nuff false accusation on account of dis mistaking him for One Nancy, any a dem, A Nancy. Me waan talk bout de being what come from Africa, de one what was a important part of we pre-Columbian socialisation, de one dat help we survive nuff atrocities over 500 years, de one who when Miss Gloudon did write wan Pantomime name Anansi Come Back, de Ghanaian Ambassador did go congratulate her fe de recognition say de odder spelling did was foolishness, de one who in spite of how dem try lick him outa we nuh tun into anyting name A Nancy. Dat a fe smaddy else creation. Me want my owna tings, warts an all. Me must can at least get dat fe Black History Month. Me we deal with de warts.

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