Quotidian 2 (December 2010)Flora Illes; Theo Meder: Anansi comes to Holland

To refer to this article use this url: http://www.quotidian.nl/vol02/nr01/a02


1. Translation into English: Mereie de Jong.

2. See the folktale catalogue of Flowers (1980) for the Caribbean distribution. Introductions to and analyses of the Anansi stories can be found in Baart (1983), Broek (1988), Dubelaar (1972), Van Duin (1994 & 2003), Illés (2009), Van Kempen (2002), Meder (2007a & 2007b), Orman & Taekema (1997), Reaver (1977), Ronhaar-Rozema (1979), De Souza (2003) and Witteveen (1989).

3. See the appendix for a complete survey of the various Surinamese, Antillean and Dutch Anansi stories, the types and the written and oral sources we consulted.

4. Lichtveld (1984 & 1997), Lichtveld in Ferrier (2010), and Pinto (2006).

5. Surinam has more ethnic groups, such as Indians, Hindustani and Javanese, but they do not share the slave past of the Creoles: the Indians appeared unfit for hard labour; Hindustani and Javanese came to work in Surinam as paid foreign workers.

6. See Reaver (1977), Ronhaar-Rozema (1979, 262-263), Dubelaar (1972, 12), Van Kempen (1989A, 44), De Souza (2003, 347-348), Baart (1983, 28, 203-209) and Witteveen (1989, 49). In the words of the storyteller Hilli Arduin: “Of course, Anansi is originally from the west of Africa. During antiquity, Anansi was a messenger of God. Because the spider is the only one who can go up and down with a wire… So Anansi took along the messages of the people to God and God replied or returned a message and Anansi would come down again.” (Interview by Flora Illes with storyteller Hilli Arduin, 2008).

7. “He is an animal, human being or God, but basically it doesn’t matter, ‘cause Anansi uses all three qualities to be Anansi… That’s why we people can understand him, ‘cause he has a great many human qualities” (Arduin 2008).

8. “… and then people come to Europe, of course. And Anansi came along, of course. You then simply get entirely different stories taking place in this area. And also that Anansi is gonna mind politics…” (Arduin 2008)

9. See Meder, Koman & Rooijakkers (2008, 84-86, 160-163). Compare: Meder (2008b).

10. “Culture is seen as a relatively stable, homogeneous, internally consistent system of assumptions, values and norms transmitted by socialisation to the next generation. […] this view of culture also tends to entail blindness as regards social variation and diversity within a nation or organisation.” (Holden 2002, 27)

11. Symbols, heroes and rituals are borrowed from Hofstede, whereas locations (as was mentioned before) are an addition by Beheydt (2009, 12-13). These are the four visible elements that can be used for the interpretation of a culture and its immaterial values. The last criterium mentioned by Hofstede is values, which will be discussed hereafter while interpreting the first four criteria. Tennekes has conceptual objections to the terminology of this model. Following anthropological literature, he wants to consider the rituals and myths about heroes as part of the body of symbols, “which are used in a culture to express the conceptions of reality and the central values belonging to that culture” (Tennekes 1995, 72). He uses the concept of “practices” to indicate “patterns of action”, and apart from symbols and practices, he makes mention of “representation”, by which he means ways of speaking and reasoning. The notion of “practices” is ignored by us, not in the last place because of the (appropriate) criticism (Tennekes 1995, 73).

12. In response to Tennekes’ criticism, we do not intend to make any distinction in concreteness between the levels of our analysis. Hofstede considers the symbols, heroes and rituals as the hierarchically constructed layers of an onion, a concept which has become outdated in anthropological literature (regarding this, see Tennekes 1995, 72-73). We prefer to regard the symbols, locations, heroes and rituals in accordance with Schein (quoted in Tennekes 1995, 79) as artefacts, visible and concretely perceptible cultural products in folktales, which might refer to subconscious ideas, perceptions and feelings.

13. The element of song is still part of the Surinamese storytelling culture. Storyteller Arduin remarked: “When I had to tell a story in Surinam for old people, I did Anansi stories and I also did some songs to match, well, and it is a great combination, those old songs, ‘cause these old people really like singing along then.” (Arduin 2008).

14. An oral and self-invented tale by Liberta Rosario, recorded by Anansi Masters.

15. There are however also Anansi stories in which Anansi helps the authorities (for his own gain) or even tries to get promoted socially by entering into the royal family by marrying a princess. In such cases, his aversion to the authorities cannot be called substantial.

16. The illustration matches the storyteller, the location and the audience: the Anansi story was actually told in a mill and the storyteller was the Dutch, white storyteller Raymond den Boestert. The audience consisted primarily of white inhabitants of the Dutch city Utrecht (recording by Theo Meder in the multicultural Utrecht neighbourhood Lombok, 5 November 2000).