Plot Summary of 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.

The Marriage of Anansewa by Efua T. Sutherland tells the story of Ananse, a poor but ambitious widower, who makes a round-the-country trip to present his only child, Anansewa, in photographs to four different affluent chiefs, with each of whom he enters into a “photograph engagement,” unknown to his daughter, who is about to finish her secretarial studies course.

He is acting in this manner with two conflicting goals in mind:

  • to find his daughter a genuinely loving spouse who would ensure her happiness and comfort in her matrimonial home; and
  • to take advantage of the opportunity presented by his daughter’s marriage to better his social and economic position.

So, we have a situation where there are four suitors and one bride, but each suitor believes that he is the only one who may be the bride’s husband.


Only a few of the play’s characters and the audience are aware of this scheme.

Anansewa is later informed about it and coaxed into cooperating after initially objecting to the plan.

Chief-Who-ls-Chief is clearly the most preferred suitor out of the four chiefs involved: Chief of Sapaase, Chief of Akate (Togbe Klu IV), Chief of the Mines, and Chief-Who-ls-Chief.

At first, the plan appears to be successful as each of the four chiefs periodically sends monetary gifts to Ananse in anticipation of the actual marriage ceremony, which involves only one of them placing the head-drink on the table to be recognized as the husband.

Ananse gains a fortune as a result. There is a transformation in his residence, his appearance, and his social standing. He dons the newest suit and visits the church to give lavish offerings.

However, the plan starts to go awry when Ananse receives separate telegrams from each of the four chiefs indicating their plans to attend and conduct the head-drink ceremony within a week or two.

Ananse immediately devises a plan to unwind the knot as things get truly complicated.

To ensure that his plan goes off without a hitch, he first lures Aya, his mother, and Ekuwa, his aunt, to their hometown, Nanka, where they live.

Anansewa must act as if she has passed away. This way, Ananse will be able to closely monitor how each candidate responds in order to ascertain who loves his daughter the most.

Anansewa is persuaded to cooperate once more, and Christie, a stylish woman who is in love with Ananse, proves to be a highly reliable ally in the plan.

The risky plot succeeds as one by one, the Messengers of the many suitors arrive with their various condolence messages and funeral gifts.

The Messengers of Chief-Who-Is-Chief arrive last. They arrive with a lot of heavy gifts and a note saying that, despite the fact that the marriage procedures have not yet been completed, their leader assumes full responsibility for Anansewa’s funeral.

By doing this, Chief-Who-Is-Chief demonstrates that he is the most devoted of the potential husbands, and Ananse joyfully calls Anansewa back to life in preparation for an upcoming grand wedding party.

Ananse therefore succeeds in his two goals of finding the ideal mate for his daughter while also generating money from her marriage. This paints Ananse as a very cunning and intelligent schemer.

Further Reading:

In The Marriage of Anansewa, Ananse is presented in the image of the spider in the Ghanaian folktale who, like the fox and the tortoise in some other African folktales, is usually credited with a lot of wit and cunning.

Here, the playwright dramatizes a Ghanaian story-telling art called ‘Anansesem‘ which now is a form of traditional theatre called ‘Anansegoro’.

The storyteller has a central role to play in the drama, and the story is normally told to music, song and dance. This explains the inclusion of several musical performances (called ‘Mboguo’) in the play, and gives it a rich African setting.

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