By Emily Williamson with the Students and Teachers of the Hassaaniyya Quranic School in Cape Coast, Ghana for the Zongo Story Project


Originally written and illustrated by the students and teachers from Cape Coast, Ghana this community-created contemporary folktale tells the story of a greedy spider who starts an illegal mining business with dreams of getting rich. When fish groan with upset stomachs and frogs wince from sore throats due to the mine’s filthy water, however, Tortoise and Crab come up with a clever plan to teach their friend Spider a lesson and make him clean up his mess.

With colorful illustrations inspired by West African textiles and a melodic text that includes Hausa words and phrases, the book’s distinct sense of place and immersive details provide a great platform for exploring:

  • environmental sustainability

  • personal responsibility

  • group problem-solving

With a companion workbook forthcoming, Gizo-Gizo also serves as a mentor text for students, teachers and others who seek to understand the building blocks of story and create original folktales of their own. 



Emily Williamson surrounded by kids.jpg

Emily Williamson

…is a PhD student in anthropology at Boston University. Her research questions center on belonging, place, and pluralism among “zongos,” the informal, predominantly Muslim settlements found in most Ghanaian cities. As a graduate student at MIT, Emily traveled the historic Black Volta Islamic trade route from the Gulf of Guinea to the Sahel to tell a nuanced historical account of these interlinked zongo communities’ socio-spatial evolution. With over ten years of intermittent engagement with zongo residents as a teacher, designer, landscape heritage consultant, and anthropologist, she is proficient in the Hausa language and has built trusted relationships among zongos in Accra, Cape Coast, Elmina, Salt Pond, Kumasi, Techiman, Wa, and the Bronx, New York.

More recently, she co-founded the Zongo Story Project with John Schaidler to help formalize her continuing literacy work in Ghana. In August, 2017 Emily and John co-led a weeklong storybook workshop in Nima, Accra. Working in conjunction with a local NGO and local teachers, they worked with over 60 students on illustrating, writing and performing stories embedded in local traditions that explore local community concerns.