Many generations across the globe know of the cunning folk character Anansi. First-time author Farrah Chow Quan is bringing the folk character’s adventures to a new generation of Trinidadians with her book, The Adventures of Anansi and Boisie ABC.
The book helps to teach children their ABCs while also helping to develop their sense of Trinidadian-ness, the US-based Trinidadian said.
One of her reasons for doing this was to give her children, Willa Alexandra and Maximillian Vibes, the chance to experience her culture.
“Having children changes you and you really want to shape the world around them as best as you can,” she said.
“Back when I had the original idea, not even for me to write a book but to read a book to my kid, I wanted to have some aspect of the folklore, some aspect of the dialect of course, just little bits of nuggets of everything that make up Trinidad and Tobago.
“Seven years ago, there weren’t that many books on the market. Self-publishing was not a thing then and so I could not find any. Then fast forward to having some drinks with my husband, Jason Chow Quan. We were sitting and talking and going through the alphabet and that kind of planted a seed.”
Another driving force was seeing actor, author and storyteller Paul Keens-Douglas’s shows at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.
“It is one of my fondest memories of primary school and going with my friends. It was fun and something different.”
She also feels like there aren’t fun characters any more like those of her childhood.
“I feel like we do not have that today. Even the Nestle characters. They had these characters like banana, strawberry and peanut punch. They had these characters walking around. I went to Mucurapo Girls and they would come to the school. It was cool. I don’t feel like we have that today,” Chow Quan said.
The covid19 pandemic created the apt conditions for her to get the book done.
Chow Quan – who is also the owner of Carnival Kicks, a Carnival footwear brand – said doing the book, during that time, was a creative outlet for her.
She wrote the book in 2021 and it was published last April. Chow Quan worked with animator, illustrator and graphic designer Daniel Blaize on it.
It was important to feminise the folk character in this age of female empowerment, she said.
“Anansi came from a long line of famous spiders. Her grandfather was Anansi, the tricky spider. Her father was also Anansi. She was the first female. Her dad named her Anansi to carry on the lineage. So while she is not as mischievous and tricky. We don’t know, maybe, she is. The adventures have begun so there is more to come,” Chow Quan said.
Some might wonder about copyright and trademark issues with the character.
Chow Quan said there were no copyright issues as it is not copyrighted or trademarked. It is only the book’s image that is copyrighted by the artist but the trademark did come into question, she said.
Anansi was a character common to many spaces in the world and belonged to the people, she added.
In the story of Anansi and Boisie the Bachac, letters are highlighted which makes it easier to teach the ABCs.
There is also a glossary which explains TT’s language to audiences.
“My children being American-Trinis and other expats, who want to impart the culture to their kids, need tutorials. So the glossary takes you through the alphabet of all the words that we use,” she said.
Not only is it an introduction to the Trinidadian language but also its music.
“It does not only dive into the linguistics, the picong, it also teaches a lot about TT’s culture and environment. All of the animals are indigenous animals to TT.”
She chose all of the animals like the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, which is an endangered species.
“It is a learning beyond the language. I really wanted the characters to come alive and for people to appreciate. There is a rising movement to explore the flora and fauna of TT.
“As someone who has left home, sometimes you feel for that so it just my way of tying it back in,” she said.
She has started working on Anansi’s next adventure and hopes to have that out within a year. However, she wants her audiences to get to know Anansi before the second book is released.
“ I really want to see how this one takes off and grows. I have some ideas about getting the characters out there. That will take investment. It will take time. It will take a little push.”
There are plans to also share Anansi’s stories as an animated YouTube series. There is also going to be an Audible and Kindle version.
The book is available on Amazon and stores in TT. Chow Quan gave a copy of the book to the National Library and Information System Authority (Nalis) on July 4.
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