Who owns Ananse? the tangled web of folklore and copyright in Ghana

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In this article, I explore the interface between law and cultural creativity; focussing on Ghana, I examine the efficacy of copyright as a mechanism for the protection of folklore and the potential impact of that protection on Ghana’s playwrights. In 2005, Ghana introduced a copyright act that makes access to Ghanaian folklore by nationals and non-nationals contingent on gaining consent from the National Folklore Office and paying an undisclosed fee prior to use. I argue that this acts as a significant barrier to Ghanaian artists who wish to draw upon Ghanaian folklore. Moreover, through analysing the ways in which the state historically encouraged and facilitated Ghanaian artists to engage with their cultural heritage in order to develop a new national identity following independence, I investigate why the Ghanaian state has now chosen to place all rights in folklore in the office of the president in perpetuity. Through a discussion of one of Ghana’s best-known folk characters, the spider god Ananse, I argue that the law, as currently set down, has the potential to disrupt the development of folklore in Ghana and prevent Ghanaian playwrights from engaging with and developing from their own cultural heritage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-191
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Early online date21 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018


  • Ghana
  • Folklore
  • Copyright
  • Theatre
  • Ananse
  • Anansesem


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