Akan Leadership Arts

by Doran Ross
Formerly Fowler Museum, UCLA

Okyeame poma (counselor’s staff), Akuropon, Akuapem, Ghana, 1976. Photo by Doran H. Ross.

Perhaps the best-known figure from African folklore is Ananse, the spider, who is a major character in Akan oral literature. The Akan call their folktales “spider stories” regardless of whether or not Ananse appears in them. Ananse is typically represented as a clever trickster who gets the best of most situations. He is said to have brought wisdom to the Akan and to have created many of the folktales. The maxim associated with the staff on the screen is, “No one goes to the house of Ananse to teach it wisdom.” A nearly identical staff in the Effutu town of Awutu represents the saying, “No one tells a new story to the spider’s son, Ntikuma.” As these expressions might suggest, Ananse is a nearly ideal metaphor for the counselor and, by extension, the chief.