Anansi is a play by Alistair Campbell in which a young girl is captured as a slave and taken aboard a slave ship. She lies in the dark, terrified and miserable; but then, a voice comes out of the dark to comfort her. The girl cannot see the woman who...
speaks to her, yet the woman provides her with comfort and wisdom. Herein lies one of the greatest ironies of the play. In the darkness of the hold of a slave ship appears the light of comfort and wisdom. The girl can see nothing with her eyes, yet she learns much with her mind and her heart.
The woman begins by telling the girl to hold on to truth and to her identity. This, too, is somewhat ironic, at least on the surface, for the girl is now owned by someone else. She is a slave. Yet that does not and must not change who she is. She can still maintain her identity, still reach for the truth, even in this situation of horror and deception and fear.
The woman also challenges the girl to think about what parts of her are still free. There is more irony here, for the girl does not seem to be free at all. She is chained in place with rows of other prisoners around her. But her eyes are still free. Her spirit is still free. Her mind is still free. No one can hold those captive.
As the play continues, the woman tells the girl stories of Anansi the spider. There is irony in this as well, for the girl says that she hates spiders. She kills them when she can, but now, she will learn wisdom from the very thing she hates. This is a critical lesson for this young girl (and for readers). It is possible to learn in every situation and from every person.
The irony extends to the stories themselves as the woman tells the girl tales about how Anansi is "the weakest and strongest at the same time." This seems paradoxical, yet it is critical for the girl to understand. She must be strong "on the inside" even if her body is frail. A spider's web seems frail, yet it is strong enough to hold the spider and catch the spider's prey. Thus the woman teaches the girl to think in new ways and to embrace the light of wisdom, even in the darkness of the slave ship.