Characterisation in Efua T. Sutherland’s “The Marriage of Anansewa”

"The Marriage of Anansewa" and "Edufa."
The front cover of Efua T. Sutherland's "The Marriage of Anansewa" and "Edufa." The two plays are antithetical in that the former is a comedy while the latter is a tragedy.

Characters in Efua T. Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa are George Kweku Ananse, Anansewa, Aya, Ekuwa, and Christie.

George Kweku Ananse

George Kweku Ananse is the protagonist of the play, The Marriage of Anansewa. He is a poor, struggling ageing widower. He has a daughter, Anansewa, an aged mother, Aya, and an elderly aunt, Ekuwa. These characters are his immediate family members.

Ananse is a very cunning character. It is least surprising that he is admired by the storyteller who wishes he “had a little of his cunning.” At the beginning of the text, Ananse is portrayed as a pauper. But as the play progresses, he goes from someone “wearing a shabby coat” to one “dressed in a suit fit for a business executive.” His change in fortune could only be attributed to his cunningness and craftiness.


Wanting to better his lot from his ripe-for-marriage daughter, Ananse schemes a foolproof plan that will make him benefit immensely financially from his daughter’s marriage. He takes the pictures of his daughter, Anansewa, which he takes to four selected chiefs from different parts of the country. He does this with the impression that he wants to give the damsel in marriage to any of them without giving any hint of his double-dealing.

Each chief is hooked to the idea that Anansewa is reserved for them and begins to send monetary gifts to Ananse to commence the marriage rites. Ananse’s financial status suddenly changes for good largely because of the fortune he makes from the four chiefs cum suitors. Thus, by appeasing four children with a rabbit, Ananse becomes rich.

As customary of traditional marriages, the prospective husband will come for the head-drink ceremony. This is where Ananse runs into trouble. The four suitors decide to come for the head-drink ceremony at almost the same time.

In order to avoid the embarrassment that may come from the any of the four suitors meeting the other, Ananse has to scheme yet another plan which serves apart from its initial design the purpose of sieving the suitors. His daughter is to feign death. Ananse announces this to the suitors. Of all the suitors, Ananse finds Chief-Who-Is-Who worthy for his daughter. He pretends to invoke Anansewa back to life.

That Ananse uses his daughter to improve his financial status does not however make him a bad and irresponsible father. He does not fail to pick for her a good husband in the process.

In summation, Ananse is portrayed as a crafty and cunning character with the mind for risky exploits. He personifies the proverbial spider of the Ghanaian folktale. In the manner of the spider, Ananse spins web of schemes which he lures unsuspecting victims into.


Anansewa is the twenty year old daughter of Ananse. She is an eponymous character. Anansewa is considered the heroine in the text although her role is passive, determined by her father. However, Ananse’s schemes will not have materialised if Anansewa had not agreed to play along. While Ananse is the hero of the play, Anansewa is the heroine.

Anansewa is a half-orphan, having lost her mother. The shoes of her mother are however filled by both her grandmother, Aya, and her grandaunt, Ekuwa. She turns to the two for emotional support.

She is educated. She had her secretarial studies at the E. P.’s Secretarial School and she is later enrolled at the Institute for Prospective Brides in preparation for marriage. According to Aya, Anansewa’s outdooring ceremony comes five years late.

She is very submissive and obedient. This is evident in how she submits to her father’s authority and obeys her father’s instructions. Without her cooperation, it wouldn’t have been possible for Ananse to initiate or execute any of his schemes. Anansewa however understands the state of their finance to object to being manipulated by her father for financial gains.

Anansewa’s pictures are used to ensnare the chiefs into Ananse’s trap. In line with the request of her father, she fakes her death and plays the role of a corpse convincingly. This distinguishes her as a good actress.

By the end of the play, Anansewa marries Chief-Who-Is-Who whom she has developed fondness for. Her marriage illustrates the idea of matchmaking in the traditional marriage setting.


Aya is the mother of Ananse and the grandmother of Anansewa. She is a central figure of the Ananse family. She is a strong pillar behind Ananse and the go-to person for Anansewa for emotional support.

Ananse tricks her and Ekuwa to Nanka, their hometown, so he can carry out his schemes. Aya plays an important role in the outdooring ceremony of Anansewa, her granddaughter. As the elder of the family, her role in the rituals of the event is significant. She prays for Anansewa in the process of the ritual.

Aya does not hide her dislike for Christie. An overprotective mother that she is, Aya is suspicious of Christie’s relationship with Ananse. She is uncomfortable with the intimacy Christie is initiating with Ananse with her over-activeness in the household. Aya thinks she is “senselessly extravagant”.


Ekuwa is Aya’s sister and Ananse’s aunt. She is also the grandaunt of Anansewa. Like Aya, she is tricked by Ananse to Nanka so he can execute his plan.

Ekuwa is accommodating. This is evident in her relations with Christie and Ananse in the play. She also plays a significant role in the outdooring ceremony of her grandniece whom she passes the egg of blessing during the ritual ceremony.


Miss Christina Yamoah is the stylish woman in charge of Institute for Prospective Brides. Introduced in Act Three of the play, she is contracted by Ananse to prepare Anansewa for marriage.

Christie is very crucial in the staging of the fake funeral of Anansewa. Ananse takes her into his confidence about his plan. She helps Ananse realise this. She functions as Anansewa’s mother during the fake burial ceremony and she is in charge of the reception of the chiefs’ entourages.

Christie has a soft spot for Ananse and she fantasises being referred to as “Mrs Ananse”. She refers to Ananse by his first name, “Georgie”, which is improper given the kind of relationship between them.  This only confirms further that Christie is in love with Ananse.

Other characters in Efua T. Sutherland’s The Marriage of Anansewa are the storyteller, the property man, and the players.

The storyteller hints the audience with the events in Ananse’s household. He is more like a narrator telling a story, the story of the Ananses. In his narration, he alternates between speech and song.

The property man and the players contribute to the play. Their roles in the play serve as reminder that the story is not real but just a dramatic presentation.

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