We Speak of Kweku Ananse - Prince Mensah

Ananse sem se so, se so’ara;
Se wonnim Anansesem a,
Na ese wo’ara.[i]

In lands of the four-legged,
The eight-legged was sage
At whose feet life begged
For a decent wage.
In universe of web and wit,
Ananse dwelt and dealt with
His wife, Aso and son, Ntikuma.
Their lives were built on drama.
We humans still sit by firesides
To discuss their escapades.

Our lives are explained by eight legs
And the one that moves them
Around the world of animals.
Kweku Ananse, he who eggs
Beasts onto mayhem.
Jackasses and jackals
Knew him as the Jekyll
While others knew his Hyde.
Deception was his thrill,
Its success was his pride.

In the time of timelessness
When animals talked with men,
Kweku roamed from village to village
Seeking fools to deceive.
His circumventive business
Gave others harsh lessons to learn,
Earning spite in story and adage.
Winds blew strong, Ananse held on
To strings of his web,
Determined to live by con,
Dwelling on wisdom’s ebb.

He watched his true believers
Gouge upon his guile
He winked at them in their stupor
Telling them how smart they were.
None had developed feelers
To discern falsehood’s bile;
They regarded him with great honor
More than the lion in his lair.
Even men came to him for advice
And they were given enough to suffice.

Kweku met his match in Entetia the Ant.
Both were smart, small and scheming.
While the Ant knew how to work for a living,
Ananse loved to have others work for him.
Soon, clouds of trickery wore thin
And the animals grew to love the Ant.
He made them rich through working
While Ananse stole their earnings
By claims of gratitude owed to him
In a scheme selfish and mean.

They found him out on bright day
Through the accursed triplets;
Eti konokono the Big Head,
Efu dontwe-dontwe the Big Stomach
And Enan kon’wia the Skinny Legs.
They heard him hatch a new plan:
He wanted to steal and run away
With treasures of golden bowls, trinkets
And ornaments on the dead.
The triplets launched an attack
On Ananse but his eight legs
Got swift and he ran

Out of the kingdom as shame
Rained on his name.
His infamy was immortalized by verb,
Spun into native proverb:
If Ananse asks you to look to the sky,
Fix your eyes on the earth;
If he asks you to watch the earth,
Look hard into the sky.

The earth is yet to acknowledge receipt
Of another whose name is deceit.

Se hum ne ham shia na mmrika asa,
Ato konkonsa ne akasa akasa.
Gyimie nye, etese kaka.[ii]

[i] Ananse’s story is being told, let it be told;
If you know not Ananse,
That’s your problem.

[ii] If speed and wind meet, that will be the end of sprinting,
All a gossip does is talk and talk and talk.
Foolish is not good, it is like a mouth sore.

"We Speak of Kweku Ananse" is part one of our four-part series of poems on Ananse stories. Check back next week for the next installment.

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