We have to admit that creatures with multiple limbs are astonishing. Insects are odd, cephalopods are weird… but at the same time they nourish our imagination and inspire us. For a long time we had an idea to create a design based on the Arachne myth, a very talented weaver who challenged Athena. This excessive pride resulted in her being transformed into a spider. We find others tales, like the Japanese tale of Jorōgumo – the spider who shapeshifts into a beautiful woman and kill men -, but all of them seems a little cliché. The folk tales and myths related to this “spider women”, most of them portrayed her as cruel and carnivore.
We tried a different direction, and started to search in the African mythology. In the first book we opened, we discover the perfect reference for this “creature”.Anansi (or Anase), was depicted sometimes like a spider with human heads; others like a human being with spider attributes or a spider simply dressed with human clothing.
He was a trickster spider who used always his intellect to outwit creatures much stronger than himself.
Once Anansi wanted to be the “Master of Stories”, but Nyame owned all the stories in the world.
So Nyame set a high price, “My price is Onini, the python who can swallow a goat; Osebo, the leopard with teeth as sharp as spears; Mmoboro, the hornet whose sting is like red hot needles. Bring to me all of these and my box with all the stories shall be yours.” Nyame thought he had given Anansi a challenge that he would refuse!
First, he went near where Onini lived and debated out loud whether the Python was longer than the palm stick or not. Onini overheard and, when Anansi explained the debate we had with this wife, the Python agreed to lie along the stick. But Onini had difficulty keeping stretched, so Python agreed to be tied to the branch. When he was completely tied, Anansi took him to Nyame.
To catch the Osebo, Anansi dug a deep hole in the ground. When the leopard felt in the hole Anansi offered helping him out. But as soon as the leopard got close enough, Anansi tied the leopard.
He tricked Mmoboro and all the hornets by telling them that it was raining. He suggested the hornets get into his empty calabash and when Mmoboro was inside, Anansi quickly sealed the opening. After Anansi handed his captives over, Nyame rewarded him by making him the God of All Stories.
For his appearance, we blend it with a different anthropomorphic spider, such as Arachne. We prefered an androgyne creature!
Behind his neck there is a flared, fan-shaped collar like Medici Collar. That way we match some depictions of Black Widows or even the character of Lucy Westenra – in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola).
We couldn’t decide between spider legs or human arms, so we kept both. As a shapeshifter from human to animal or vice-versa.
The baby in the womb represents the conception of Ntikuma, Anansi’s son. After seeing some American Gods and read some “Anansi Boys” by Neil Gaiman, we built up the idea that was Ntikuma and his brothers who travelled to Haiti and Jamaica to keep the myth alive.
The ropes represent all the times he tricked and tied his enemies. At the same time we wanted to give that hanging and trapped feeling, like in shibari performances. Just like the flies stuck in a spider’s web.