Michael Auld was born in Kingston, Jamaica. In that island Anansi was an invaluable moral tool. There, the
spider-man had retained his authentic Asanti (Ashanti) folkloric personality. As long as Michael could remember,
AnansiStories were an inseparable part of his life. AnansiStories were used in his elementary school education as
folkloric literature and for reading assignments. As a child growing up in pre-television Jamaica, Michael swapped
AnansiStories with his friends and with his parent's household workers. He also listened to local folklorists Louise
Bennett and her partner Ranny Williams who told stories about Anansi live and on the radio. Anansi was so
prevalent a part of Jamaican life, that to be dismissive of someone was to say, "Cho, man! You just telling a Anansi
"Through Anansi the Spider-man, we children learned that 'might was not always right '. We learned that, although
we were small, we could use our brains to solve any problem."
At the age of 19 Michael went to the United States to attend
Howard University in Washington, D.C. Although his
intention was to become a dentist, Michael changed
his major to design at the university's College of Fine Arts.
In his junior year at Howard he had a class assignment
to illustrate a story for children. Michael chose to illustrate
version of the spider-man in "Anansi and the Yam Hills".
In 1971, Michael wrote and published a comic strip called
ANANSESEM for newspapers in the Caribbean and South
America. "Anansesem" is a Twi word from the
Asanti people of Ghana. It means "AnansiStories".
won the honor as "Keeper of All Stories" in a contest by
Nyame the Great Sky God. From then on all stories belong
Michael taught illustration and cartooning to adults and
children for over 30 years. He has told AnansiStories at
many venues, including the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum
National Museum of African Art. As a storyteller/illustrator, Michael
also used AnansiStories in the classroom on the elementary
school level to teach his students about character development.
Michael's sculptures, prints, and installations have been exhibited
in one man shows and in many group exhibitions. The New York
Times, the Washington Post and a number of publications have
given Michael's works critical acclaim.
Michael also has a passion for the history of the Caribbean and continues research on the area's indigenous
cultures, the Taíno and Island Caribs. He collects information on the history and aesthetics of these peoples that
he incorporates in sculptures, (below) installations and silk screen prints. One of the grants that he received in 1992
allowed him to visit Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Antigua and Dominica to research retentions of indigenous aesthetics in
Caribbean cultures. His second comic strip format can be found on the Powhatan Museum's CHILDREN'S
CORNER web page. This new website comic strip is titled Zum-Zum, (a Taíno word for hummingbird) stars a young
female hummingbird called Zumi Kolibri. Zumi's job is to introduce the audience to indigenous Caribbean words and
concepts that have continued to influence world cultures since 1492.
"Each year I return to my ancient Taíno island of Jamaica in order to maintain ties with its ongoing history," Michael
said. He and his wife Rose Powhatan (Pamunkey/Tauxenent), a Native American historian, artist and a Virginia
Algonquian storyteller, live in Washington, D.C. They both travel the Powwow circuit with her Powhatan designed
print wear. Rose played the role of a clan mother in The New World movie (2006) in which their son Kiros appeared
as a "Zone 1 warrior". She also was Crispus Attuck's Natick mother in the HBO mini series, "John Adams".They have
three sons, Ian (an engineer), Alexei (an arts lawyer), and Kiros (a law graduate). Michael also blogs on indigenous
American issues on Yamaye's Gwabance
Some sculptures, installations and prints by the artist
(Above) Anacaona, seated on a dujo, 2003, installation.
Materials: Life-sized cherry wood sculpture adorned with wisteria
vines, parrot feathers, cotton, Jamaican conch shell and gold leaf.
Dujo: A stool for royalty, carved from gingcobo wood, inlaid with
abalone shell, adorned with cotton.
(Insert) Detail of Anacaona's head.
Anacaona means "Golden Flower". She was a renowned 15th to
16th century Taíno cacique (ruler) of a large province on the
island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). In 1502,
the beautiful Anacaona and over 100 of her chiefs were
assassinated by the Spanish governor Nicolas Ovando at a
reception held by her in his honor. Today, Anacaona is
remembered in songs.
(Left) Guahayona and His Travel To Guanin, 2003.
Materials: Silk screen on hand-made paper.
The hummingbird is a symbol of gold. Guahayona is the epic
hero of the Taíno who, after leaving Matinino (the Island of
Women) traveled to Guanin (the Island of Gold). Christopher
Columbus and the conquistadors pursued this Caribbean myth in
their quest for Amazons and gold in the Americas.
More works that relate to indigenous Caribbean cultures may be
seen at http://www.powhatanmuseum.com/Taino_Gallery.html
|WRITE TO THE ARTIST!
Michael is an avid Anansi storyteller, teacher and a lecturer.
Send him your interpretation of Anansi the Spider-Man.
Contact him at:
Copyright 2007 by Michael Auld
|At the end of the day it was Mrs. Guinea fowl who
benefited from Anansi's folly.
From Michael Auld's "Anansi and the Yam Hills".
|CLICK ON IMAGE AT LEFT
to get information on calabash
gourd food items that became a
part of the Anansi Story tradition
when he was brought to the
Americas, especially to Jamaica.
Left: Sculptural installation commemorating
Jamaica's 50th Anniversary of Independence
(1962-2012). The installation is of a Taíno
shaman (Bohique or Bohike) who is shape-
shifting into Maracael (HE WHO DOES NOT
BLINK) a bird from the Taíno's Creation Story
about a watchman at the Cave of the Jagua
(ha-goo-wah), the name for one of the (twin)
caves from which the Taíno were created.
The other cave is one from which the world's
"other people" came.
The Taíno were Jamaica's first freedom
fighters and the island's first Maroons or
Cimarrones. Today, their Afro/Euro-Taíno
descendants, dominated by Ghana's Akan
(mainly Asanti) progeny, continue to tell
AnansiStories. Some of these AnansiStories
may be the oldest in the Americas since
Africans who escaped from Spanish rule, after
the 16th century, later joined the Taíno
cimarrones in the island's mountainous
There, the Maroons fought two wars against
the English. They were the first in the
Americas to gain freedom from England,
before America's War of Independence.