Mister Anansi

One of my earliest childhood memories is that of me sitting in front of a small burning coal pot while my grandmother narrated one of her traditional Anansi stories. She had the amazing ability to time the conclusion of the story to precisely when her light soup was fully reheated. I recall how intriguing and humorous these stories were, yet very informative and full of wisdom. There was always a moment after hearing a story that I felt, 'he had it coming' or 'I wouldn't do that' etc. At school I heard even more Anansi stories, however it was much more exciting as there were games, songs and dances to go with the tales.

 Chris learning about Anansi stories from his grandmother
My primary school teacher was very animated and retold the stories in a fascinating way. Indeed, when I started school in England I found it strange how my new teacher would sit and read the class a story.
I later learned that the storytelling I experienced in Ghana was an African oral tradition that went back thousands of years. The Griots (African storytellers) used music, drama and dance to deliver their stories.Theses stories contained values, culture, and morals, but delivered in such an artistic and entertaining way that they were very popular. In the world of African stories, people became animals and insects; and trees, rivers, mountains etc, represented our characters and our trials and tribulations. It was in this world that Anansi was born.

The Gentelman on the left is the village storyteller
Many years later on a visit to Ghana, I researched Anansi stories and again my grandmother was an invaluable source of information. She explained how she heard Anansi stories as a child, "More than ninety years ago"! I found a wealth of books about Anansi and saw some Griots in action. I returned to England completely inspired to share these stories with schools, libraries and other centres. I studied how the Griots performed and drew on my own experience to design my own storytelling workshop. Furthermore, my late uncle Felix Cobbson was a storyteller and musician. He regularly represented African Culture at prestigious events and held many sessions in his African village as well as for the BBC, Arts Council and various other organisations. I was able to obtain much resource from him, including traditional instruments and literature. I also studied how he combined storytelling with music, games and dance to provide an excellent window into African art.
 Felix Cobbson showing the queen mother how to play the Tamalin drum
I feel very proud to represent a tradition which has played a very important part in African culture for centuries, but also to be given the opportunity to share this with all people in our community.
Chris Cobbson LLCM(TD)