Carmen McCain gave an excellent talk on hausa fiction last night at an ANA Abuja event. Although she grew up in Jos, she wasn't aware until a few years ago of the vast body of popular fiction written in hausa. She is now on the way to becoming an expert in the field, via a PhD she is completing at the University of Wisconsin.
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Her talk reviewed some of the more popular works, which can sell into the hundreds of thousands of copies. As publishers, we could only listen with envy. The majority of the writers are women, although the nature of northern culture means that they women writers get less visibility than men.
Also, she identified the continuum between the origin of many of the stories in drama groups, the novels and Kano films. A member of the drama group may go on to write the novel version of the story created in the group, which then goes on to become a film in which the writer stars.
The discussion after her talk focused mainly on the value of writing in different languages in an African context. As Carmen suggested, dismissing hausa fiction as 'pulp' is mistaken; quality literature rises out of a popular/pulp context. It did in Jane Austen's time as it does today. The stereotype of the "illiterate northerner" crumbles in the face of the fact that there are more writers and readers of hausa literature than there are of any other language (including English) in Nigeria.
What should come next? The best of hausa fiction needs to be translated, so that the rest of us can be let in on the secret!