Anansi and the Golden Pot
Picture Book / Ages 5-8 / Ghana
January 11, 2022
"A West African story about the much-loved trickster, Anansi, retold and reimagined for a new generation by award-winning author Taiye Selasi." Publisher
Anansi and the Golden Pot is a simple story about the importance of sharing. It follows a boy, Kweku whose moniker is Anansi taken from the subject of his favorite bedtime stories, Kweku Ananse. During a family vacation in Ghana, Anansi makes an encounter with the trickster spider who introduces him to the magic of the golden pot with which all of his favorite food can be wished to life. Anansi, embodies the trickster nature of the spider in his favorite bedtime stories the moment he receives the golden pot and refuses to share its magic with his siblings. The consequences of this is a lesson he learns the hard and even painful way.
The story of Anansi and the Golden Pot is not new to those familiar with traditional Anansi stories. Selasi simply reimagines this old folktale with an interesting modern twist. There is the magic and fantasy of Anansesem (Akan for Ananse stories), the trickery of Ananse and the lesson which is always the same–the joy of generosity and the grief of greed. This is the recipe for the perfect Anansesem production.
What I particularly love about Selasi’s Anansi and the Golden Pot are the illustrations by Nigerian artist, Tinuke Fagborun. The colours are bright and fun and it is refreshing to have a Ghanaian family with a very diverse physical appearance. There is the father Kojo, decked out with earrings and the children with different hairstyles such as locs and braids as against the haircut of many young Ghanaian children. For a conservative people, this non-conformist look makes the reimagination of the traditional folktale even more productive. It speaks to the afropolitanism of a Ghanaian family living abroad with different cultures and traditions because of their multiple backgrounds. It also speaks to the growing trends of young parents of this generation who don’t conform to singular normative guiding principles. Another plus are the culture-specific images that reinforce a sense of Ghana: lovely beaches, decorated fishing boats, kelewele and Adinkra symbols. Also, in the illustrations, the spider is old, wearing a hat, glasses and using a walking stick. For some reason, this made me quite emotional. Perhaps seeing the subject of my childhood stories being represented as old made me reflect on my growth as well. Talking about old people, I loved that Anansi’s grandmother, Nana, bears a close resemblance to Queen Ramonda (the mother of the Black Panther). I found this particularly interesting and special and the most enjoyable aspect of the book.
Anansi and the Golden Pot is a perfect reimagination of the traditional didactic tales for teaching children the lesson about sharing. It is an easy read with colourful writing and even more colourful illustration. A video reading of the picture book by the author is available on the Internet. Author Taiye Selasi narrates the book with apt enthusiasm which is perfect for a young audience. Her rich yet soft voice makes the 9-minute video a pleasure to listen to and view. Her slow-paced, professional delivery interspersed with animation or rather dramatization of the voices gives an added depth to the story. Words are spotlighted as spoken which is a great plus for early readers. Anansi and the Golden Pot is marketed to ages 4-8 but it is thoroughly enjoyable for all ages, I hope Taiye Selasi gives us an entire collection of retold tales. There are so many Ananse stories begging to be brought back to life! Highly Recommended
Elizabeth Abena Osei, MA
University of Ghana
Published in Africa Access Review (August 11 2022)
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