Storytelling has traveled, survived and thrived through all expectations. One of the first tools to teaching that many parts of the world still use today for many purposes. However, stories in the western Caribbean came directly from Africa in the times of slavery. These stories traveled on the tongues of the slaves through the middle passage across the Atlantic Ocean right here to our islands. Preserved on the sugar cane plantations, the stories of Anansi, the spider which came directly from the Ashanti people of Ghana. The stories passed down from the Ashanti people still to this day is embedded in the culture of the Virgin Islands. Since the earliest times, people have relied on storytelling to preserve cultural traditions.
Most traditional stories are tales of animals that were gods in Africa. Characters include Tiger, Monkey, Snake, Dog, Cat, Rabbit, Goat, Peacock, and Donkey. However, the most famous character is the trickster-god Anancy the Spider, also called Ananci, Ananse, and Brer Nancy. In Africa, Anancy had been the god of wisdom as well, and his tales of trickery delighted all ages. “Ananci Krokoko” is his name in Ashanti. It means “The Great Spider.”
An important aspect of the storytelling tradition is dialect. Each of the islands developed their own dialects, and though the stories themselves may remain much the same, the dialect plays an important role in the telling. The local patois also lends an added humor to the stories, which are common anywhere Africans were brought as slaves. However, the nature of storytelling means no tale is told the same way twice, so while the tales may be familiar, each time they are told, they are unique. These stories are also being passed down with music. Calypso tells these popular stories throughout the Caribbean, though Cuba’s Son music and Puerto Rico’s Bomba also tell tales. Some islands also feature tales in the East Indian tradition. Tales of villages and moral stories about animals are extremely common.
With modern-day Guardians of Culture: Glenn Kwabena Davis, Yohance Henley, Khalarni Rivers, Torhera Durand Tekettay Ludvig, and Jamila Moorehead, storytelling is alive and well. The gift of gab is something that should be kept alive for generations to come and by doing your part by not just acknowledging Virgin Island’s history but by also learning and practicing storytelling techniques you also keep the Virgin Islands itself alive.