The Kingston leg of the inaugural Anancy Festival got underway on Saturday June 11, 2011 at the Tom Redcam Library with BIAJ Publishing Director and author, Kellie Magnus, thanking all who had turned out. She welcomed them to what promised to be an enjoyable and fun-filled afternoon ; and it was!
The Festival was appropriately kicked off with a video presentation by Laura Tanna which set the tone for the festivities by contextualizing the event with a look at the place of folk tales in Jamaica’s culture and the importance of our oral history. Her piece provided the perfect backdrop for Joan Andrea Hutchinson to launch into a trilogy of Anancy stories which had the audience in stitches. One story entitled “Anancy, Bud and Hole” especially found favour with the patrons as she so enthralled them with the antics of the crafty Anancy as he schemed to secure his dinner. Her performance was also quite interactive as she engaged the audience by asking them questions and inviting them to do a variety of actions. She was only one of a slew of storytellers which included the likes of Joanne Simpson and Amina Blackwood-Meeks who had the audience singing along to “Go dung a Manuel Road” and also managed to get a youngster to pretend that he was a “drumma roach” dancing the Dinkimini. One general theme that was visible throughout all the presentations was how they engaged the audience in the storytelling; at points having the whole room in a frenzy as they pretended they were being bitten by the “Summer Bug”.
The festival also showcased video presentations of Anancy stories from Frame by Frame Productions, Andre Davies and Rachel Wade Moss. There was a wide array of Anancy books for sale, some of which veered from the traditional way in which Anancy stories are told. One such was Confessions of Anansi which promised its reader stories through the eyes of Ashanti Africans from the Slave Trade to the plantations. Not to be outdone, the Institute of Jamaica was on hand to throw some history in the mix as well as to show children how they could have fun with Anancy. Their booth boasted fun facts about Anancy, a collection of puzzles and artefacts from their West African Collection. One employee took things to a whole new level and had the children making spider webs from elastic bands. Even some of the adults got in on the action, whetting their chops on what was no doubt a childhood favourite for them.
The face-painting booth was a blast among the children who got decked out with designs ranging from butterflies to tigers and even a Anancy-inspired spider. Patrons were also seduced by the sweet honey treats from EcoFarms who literally had people eating out of their hands with their HoneyStix.
Overall, the event was a success and the organizers should be proud of what they achieved. The only disappointment was that technical difficulties marred the live simulcast of a reading by Geoffrey Phillips from the Florida leg of the event which was in its third year. One can only hope that the Festival will get bigger and better and that corporate Jamaica will throw their support behind the event.