Stories heal and unify in times of trouble. A new online series featuring TT poet and storyteller Eintou Springer along with other storytellers celebrates this truth during April. The first instalment, How Handwashing Came into the World, aired on Sunday on the poet’s Facebook page and can be found there.
The initiative is being carried out worldwide by members of an international organisation of traditional storytellers called the International Ananse Movement (IAM) convened by Dr Amina Blackwood Meeks of Ntukuma Jamaica, hosts of the Ananse Sound Splash, an international storytelling festival and conference. Ambassadors include Springer, Jan Blake and Michael Kerins from Europe, Jeeva Raghunath from India and Nomsa Adlalose from South Africa.
Blackwood Meeks said IAM is motivated by a desire to give recognition and visibility to indigenous and original cultural forms.
“It takes its name from the Spider God of Wisdom of the Akan people of Ghana, who has survived in stories across many areas of the African diaspora. With Ananse as the symbol of resistance and retention, IAM is inclusive of all cultural forms that have survived in stories, songs, chants and in our unique drum rhythms on the fringes of mainstream consciousness.
“The Stories that Heal and Unify project represents the commitment of storytellers to assist people to understand and cope with the current crisis brought on by covid19 by sharing stories that highlight the values by which we have lived in the past as well as stories that demonstrate our capacity to survive. Our spelling of Ananse is in keeping with the spelling used among the Akan people who gave us Ananse and this reclamation of the name is important to reparation.”
Springer said following a conversation with her daughter Atillah Springer about how to use storytelling to help people during this time, Atillah suggested they reach out to Blackwood Meeks, who was the convener of the IAM.
Springer said the storytellers will tell the same stories at the same time each Sunday in April, in their native language and storytelling traditions. In the story, Ananse, the Spider God of Wisdom of the Akan people of Ghana, decides to cook himself a meal. One of the animals often found in the Ananse stories, Turtle, decides he wants some food, but Ananse says he can only have some if his hands are washed. The ending would come as no surprise to those familiar to Ananse stories.