Cosmic Connections

Kifwebe moon mask, Songye, Democratic Republic of the Congo, early-mid 20th century; National Museum of African Art collection

Thunder Diety Staff, Yoruba, Nigeria; National Museum of African Art collection


Read on to learn more about these pieces…

Celestial Folklore

Our guest post this week has been canceled, so we thought we would share two condensed versions of African folklore that explore the origins of the sun, moon, and stars.

This Yoruba tale is adapted from Mike Omoleye’s Great Tales of the Yoruba.

Imola and the Moon

There was a young girl named Imola who was preparing to marry her beloved boyfriend. According to custom, before a girl could be married, a pot of walnuts would be cooked overnight and shared with the relatives of the would-be groom. If the walnuts were bad, unhappiness would plague the marriage.  The jealous second wife of Imola’s father burned the walnuts in secret overnight; when Imola discovered this, she climbed up toward the heavens in search of good walnuts and became the moon. Her suitor then followed her up into the sky and became the North Star.

This tale from Ghana is adapted from Emmanuel Asihene’s Traditional Folktales of Ghana.

Ananse and the Sun

Ananse the spider and his son Ntikuma went out in search of food, when suddenly they were captured by a dragon and put into a cave with other people and animals held as prisoners. Ananse devised a plan with the prisoners to create a ladder out of the bones of previous prey in order to escape through a secret hole once the dragon left the cave. As the prisoners climbed the completed ladder, the dragon returned to the cave. When Ananse was almost at the top, he cut the ladder under his feet, which caused the angry dragon to fall to his death. Out of admiration, the animals changed Ananse into the sun, Ntikuma into the moon, and they themselves into the stars.

Do you know any stories of the moon, sun, and stars?