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Anansi: Oral Tradition on the Move

A film series by Jean Hellwig

Discussion topic: How can we engage with storytelling as anthropologists? What happens to an oral tradition when it is recorded on video and exhibited, for example in a museum? How can anthropologists work with the creative tension between fluidity and fixity?




The stories and tales about the spider Kweku Ananse traveled from West Africa to the rest of the world as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. Today, this cunning story figure can be found in the Netherlands as Anansi, as he is named by people with a Surinamese background, or as Kompa Nanzi, the Papiamentu version from Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba.

Anansi Masters is an ongoing media project about these oral traditions of Anansi storytelling. By creating a new stage for the stories the project contributes to developing the tradition, making it grow. Involving artists of various disciplines enlarges the audience and creates new interactions between immaterial and material culture.


Jean Hellwig (links) houdt het certificaat vast waarmee Anansi werd uitgeroepen tot werelderfgoed.

Jean Hellwig is an independent documentary filmmaker and media producer, schooled as a visual anthropologist. His working field ranges from issues of cultural heritage and musical traditions to migration and the history of slavery. He directed the documentary series ‘Surprising Europe’ about African migrants in Europe, he produced the transmedia documentary project ‘Warlovechild’ about the most recent colonial war of the Dutch in Indonesia, and recently the documentary ‘The World makes Music’ about 45 years of world music. He also launched the Power of Stories project in the Openluchtmuseum in Arnhem.

Discussant: Irene Stengs

Date: Thursday, February 23th from 17:00-19:00
Location: Anthro Screening Room, The Red Room (Common Room) B5.12 Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 Roeterseiland, 1018 WV Amsterdam, Netherlands

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