Saturday, February 06, 2010

On hausa literature

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.

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!


Anonymous,  11:00 pm  

good stuff. perhaps the key to ending illiteracy in nigeria in nigeria is to teach in our native languages. someone needs to do a hose of wisdon project in nigeria and translate everything into the local languages

Anonymous,  11:24 am  

I go with first comment.

Anonymous,  10:30 pm  

There are already hausa primary schools in the north . The problem lies in the quality of teachers hence the education the children receive. i'm fully in support of teaching in hausa but we need better educated and trained teachers to do so. but how many educated Nigerians want to teach in a local language?

My aunts and cousins read hausa novels like mad and some of them are really excellent even though majority of them are silly love stories. and yes even 'illiterates' read them because it is easy for them to read hausa alphabets since it almost directly corresponds to the ajami (hausa written in arabic letters) that a lot of them grow up reading.

Carmen 5:09 pm  

Just posted this on facebook, but I thought this list of links might be useful here as well:

For more info, see:

Interview with Hausa novelist Sa'adatu Baba:

Interview with bestselling author Bilkisu Funtua:

Interview with groundbreaking author Balaraba Ramat Yakubu:

Interview with the first female novelist who wrote in Hausa Hafsat Abdulwahid:

Another interview with Hafsat Abdulwahid:

Info on the current censorship crisis in Kano:

Hausa Popular Literature Database at SOAS, London:

"Hausa literary movement and the 21st century" by Yusuf Adamu:

"Between the word and the screen: A historical perspective on the Hausa Literary movement and the Home video invastion" academic article by Yusuf Adamu

"Hausa popular literature and the video film" academic article by Graham Furniss:

"Loud Bubbles from a Silent Brook: Trends and Tendencies in Contemporary Hausa Prose Writing" academic article by Abdalla Uba Adamu

"Islamic-Hausa Feminism Meets Northern Nigerian Romance: The Cautious Rebellion of Bilkisu Funtuwa" academic article by Novian Whitsitt

"Parallel Worlds: Reflective Womanism in Balaraba Ramat Yakubu's Ina son sa haka" academic article by Prof Abdalla Uba Adamu

Hausa writer's database (in hausa):

My blog post on a Hausa writer's conference in Niger:

etc, etc, etc....

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