Hausa Literary Movement & the 21st Century
Geography Department, Bayero University, Kano.
The story of Hausa literature is a long one and it can be said to have
come a long way. In the modern sense and in this write-up, our concern
about Hausa Literature is not all encompassing rather restrictive. Creative
writing in Hausa language started as soon as the Hausa people accepted
Islam in around fourteenth century or much earlier. Arabic scripts were
used to write Hausa in what is called Ajami form of written Hausa. That
form of writing was used for scholarly works, communication and creativity
up till today by millions of people. Up to the 1960s and early 1970s Ajami
was in used by a large number of people. Although today its use has declined
due to the rampant use of roman script and some socio-historical circumstances,
the use of Ajami is still common. All Nigerian currencies carry Ajami form
so are a number of commercial products like the Swan Water. There is also
a whole newspaper in Ajami published weekly by the Triumph newspapers company
called Alfijir. Recently Dr. Abdallah Uba Adamu of the department of Education
Bayero University, Kano is initiating and leading a campaign of Ajami revival.
The essence of Ajami is that our literature was first written in it.
There is no doubt that Islam and Arabic civilisations have a propound
influence on Hausa language, culture and literature. Thus the earliest
genre of creative writing was poetry. There were many evidences on the
use of poetry for scholarship, mobilisation, enlightenment, campaigns and
revolutions. However the peak of poetry usage came with the Jihad of Usmanu
Danfodio in the 19th century.
The Jihad leaders used the medium of poetry to educate, mobilise and
enlightened their followers; the Jama'a. A quick peep in the Jihad literature
provides hundreds of examples of poems composed by the Jihad leaders especially
Usman Danfodio, his brother Abdullahi and his children Muhammadu Bello
and Nana Asma'u. Poetry continued to dominate Hausa literary scenes until
Other genres of creative writing particularly prose and play were virtually
non existent before the coming of the British colonialist in the early
20th century. This may be attributed to religious position which do not
encourage fictional stories because of the fear of making them to appear
real and authentic.
The introduction of roman scripts saw the emergence of the new Hausa
prose-fiction and plays. Abubakar Imam and his colleagues under the guidance
of Dr. Rupert East gave birth to what we may consider modern Hausa literature.
Thus from 1933 when the first set of Hausa novels were published, we have
witnessed the emergence of second and third generation of Hausa novelists
and finally in the mid 1980s the fourth generation emerged. Hausa play
and poetry has declined it is the novel that lives on as even the short
story genre has declined.
What we call fourth generation of Hausa writers is what some call Soyayya
writers or market literature while some others call them millennium generation
still some call them the new Hausa writers or contemporary Hausa novelists/writers.
Whatever name they are called, there is no doubt that they have generated
a lot of controversies more than their predecessors have.
Some of the major criticism labelled against these writers are that
- They are immature and not well educated
- They are corrupting the minds of youth (their target readers) by
introducing anti-cultural plots and styles in their writing
- They are low quality books (because they are self published)
- The books aremere love stories most of which are adaptations of Indian
movies and many more.
Thus from around 1990 debates ensured on the pages of newspapers and
magazine (the broadcast media inclusive) for and against these books and
writers. One thing though is certain these books have survived. Whatever
negative thing is said about these books and writers in the last few years.
it will be imperative to see the positive side of this new literary movement
and its implication to Hausa language and literature as we step into the21st
century. This is for a number of reasons the most important of which this
new literary movement has earned Hausa language the position of the fastest
growing literary language in Africa in a time when Arabic and Kiswahili
are becoming increasingly important contenders as Africa’s lingua franca.
The new literary movement which was and still is dominated by youth
has contributed in no small measure in increasing literacy level among
Hausa speakers particularly women. This singular achievement alone is enough
to commend these young writers who despite unfriendly economic and technical
environment were able to write and publish.
Secondly, the movement has brought forward Hausa literature for the
very first time into the main stream of Nigerian literature. Until 1996,
Hausa writers were not recognised as writers in the Nigerian literary circles.
The formation on a branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA)
in Kano between 1992-1995 and attendance of some ANA Kano members
to the 16th Annual Convention of ANA in Kaduna brought Hausa literature
to the forefront. Thanks to Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Dr. Adamu Tanko, Malam
Bala Mohammed, Dr. Saleh Abdu and Yusuf Adamu who represented Hausa writers
and mounted an exhibition during the convention. Now we have two Hausa
writers (though equally English) as members of ANA national executive council.
Thirdly, the movement has contributed in no small measure in inculcating
reading habit and culture among Hausa youths. One young people acquire
this culture, it prove essential throughout life and a people that doesn’t
read is doomed.
Next, the movement has produce for Hausa literature fine writers who
will form the background of Hausa literature in the next millennium. This
also implies that without this new literary movement Hausa literature would
have been certified dead. Reasons: when the major Hausa publishers (notably
NNPC Zaria, and Huda-Huda) declined Hausa literature was threatened, had
this new movement not started, we will today have no new Hausa writers
thus no literature. Look at what is happening to Hausa poetry and plays.
Hausa poetry is today restricted to political campaigns periods and Hausa
plays relegated to TV dramas and Home videos.
Another important attempt (though now abandoned) made by this movement
was that of inventing new scripts for Hausa. Notably Dan Azimi Baba Cediyar
`Yan-gurasa and one Sadiya Lawan have attempted inventing new Hausa scripts
and were put to use by a few followers. This is implying that since
the British Imperialists have helped in killing the Ajami form of written
Hausa by introducing Hausa in Roman scripts, young Hausa men and women
are trying to show that they can abandoned the roman script for an original
Hausa script. This attempt is worth studying by our scholars in the Universities
especially the Centre for the Study of Nigerian Languages of the Bayero
University Kano and Centre for Hausa Studies of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University
What hope for the millennium?
Despite all these achievement, Hausa literature is far from being ready
for the 21st century world. There are a number of reasons that militate
against it some of which are follows:
- Stereotyping of the whole movement by some section of the population,
the media and academia.
- The state structure has yet to take the whole movement seriously
in that The Kano State Library Board (the custodian of Kano state collections
on Arts and Literature) does not have a collection of the new Hausa writing.
So also most other libraries in Hausa speaking places.
-Lack of organisation and strong economic base in the publishing industry.
- The emergence of Home-videos (a more profitable business) is threatening
the booming book industry.
- Lack of interest from the State, Hausa elites and academia on the
progress of Hausa literature.
- There is a clear neglect by the State and the writers community in
writing for children.
Notwithstanding these problems we can say there is hope as there has
always been. Thanks to Allah that those chosen to be writers are always
conscious of their responsibilities and are not relenting. For now the
Kano ANA is now organising a monthly literary forum it called Dandalin
Marubuta that brings together writers, critics and readers monthly to discuss
and exchange ideas on how to go about improving Hausa literature. This
is yielding fruits.
It is also publishing an anthology of Hausa short stories for the first
time in the history of Hausa literature. It is also trying hard to find
a sponsor for a prize to be administered by ANA national for Hausa novel.
The leading writers in the movement have also indicated their interest
and willingness to improve the literary and production quality of their
works as we entre the 21st century.
An educationist with Bayero University (Dr. Abdallah Uba Adamu) is putting
together a book of readings on the new Hausa literary movement in book
form. This will serve as a teaching and reference text for the students
of Hausa literature, culture and sociology.
A Kano based publishing firm (Adamu Joji Publishers) that publishes
books for children in English will also start a new series next years in
Hausa for school children. This is to address one of the major areas of
weaknesses of Hausa literature of neglecting children.
By way of conclusion, I think it is becoming evident that the next century
is a century of information. Coupled with what is happening to the Hausa-speaking
peoples in the current time, there is every need on the part of all stake-holders
to come together and re-focus Hausa literature by identifying with its
producers and assisting them. Our literature is our history. If we let
our literature die just like we let our great historical monuments (the
city walls)in Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Sokoto and other Hausa City-states
die, we will do more disservice to our children and to history. We will
not be forgiven for siddon-look but may be forgiven for making mistakes.
We as writers would continue to do our best for our society, if the society
fail us, history shall still say good of us.
Brought to you by Kano Online 2002