Associated with wisdom and divination, the spider serves as a channel of communication with the spirit world and, as such, its image is also linked with leadership and rulers. Because the ground-dwelling tarantula (or earth spider) lives underground in spider silk-lined nests, it is thought to be closer to the realm of the dead who are buried in the earth. The spider's ability to produce spider silk also places it in a special group of animals and insects that share skills with humans-in this case, the talent to spin or weave. Although the spider is most often depicted in the arts of the Cameroon Grassfields, the best-known spider tales come from Ghana and the Asante peoples. Anansi the spider is a trickster whose stories were brought to America where the spider was transformed into the clever Brer Rabbit.

Bowl with spider design
Bamum peoples, Grassfields region, Cameroon
Early to mid-20th century
Museum purchase, 2000-12-7

Mask with spider motif cap
Bamum peoples, Grassfields region, Cameroon
Mid-20th century
Wood, pigment
Gift of Warren M. Robbins,