Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy Islamic New Year 1431!

Happy New Year to all of my Muslim friends in commemorating the 1431st year since the Prophet’s Hijra. Allah ya ba da zaman lafiya.

And in other topics, here is my song obsession for the day. Nazifi Asananic’s “Dawo Dawo” (“Come back, Come back”) as featured in the Hausa film Garinmu da Zafi. (Forgive me for not italicizing. My laptop mouse is broken and I have a hard time highlighting things anymore…)

A Hausa Literary Expedition to Damagaram, Zinder, Niger

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Hausa writers Maryam Ali, Zainab Auta, Hafsat M.A. Abdulwahid, and Rabi’a Talle in Damagaram, Niger, 10 December 2009 (c) Carmen McCain

Last week I attended a conference on “The Importance of Indigenous Languages to Economic, Social, and Cultural Development (a rough translation of the conference name in French “Interet et Importance des Langues Nationales dans le Processus du Developpement Economique Social Culturel et Politique” and Hausa “Mahimmancin Harsunan Gida ta Hanyar Rubutu Don Ci Gaban Tattalin Arziki Al’Adu da Kyautata Rayuwa da Siyasa”), held in Damagaram, Niger, from 8-10 December 2009. From the papers presented, (all of which were in Hausa on matters related to Hausa language, literature, and culture) and the participants, involved, it mostly turned out to be a conference on the importance of Hausa, with the significant exception of the participation of Alhassane Hamed-Ittyoube, a Nigerien writer, translator, and illustrator of Tuareg heritage, with some beautiful looking books in the Tamajaq language using the Tifinar script he passed around for us to look at. Although his primary languages are Tamajaq and French, he speaks some Hausa and interacted well with the mostly Hausa literary crowd that arrived from Nigeria and other parts of Niger. Unfortunately, for some reason I can’t quite understand, he was stopped from reading an excerpt from one of his rewritings of Tamajaq oral literature at one of the open-mic events. He was reading a translation in French, which another Nigerien writer was translating into Hausa. He was about two minutes into his reading, and we were all enjoying the piece, when there was some discussion I couldn’t hear, and he was not able to finish. I was sorry about that because his involvement in the conference seemed very important in providing a voice for minority-language literatures in a conference that was ostensibly about indigenous language[S] rather than just Hausa. I will try to write a separate post on his work and the interaction we had during the conference.

With that aside, it was very enjoyable to be on an expedition with so many Hausa writers (including novelists, poets, journalists, and academics), and to be able to be a part of the two evenings of open-mic events, in which authors read poems/short stories/excerpts of novels and received much critical feedback from fellow writers. The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, and full of jokes, especially when novelist/screenwriter/poet Nazir Adam Salih sang a love-song, with a full sing-along chorus, to an unknown lady and was mercilessly teased with spur-of-the-moment response songs for the rest of the trip.

Hausa novelists Nazir Adam Salih and Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino at a reading in Damagaram, Zinder, Niger, 8 December 2009 (c) Carmen McCain

There is much to say about the week, and I will likely split this post up into several smaller ones on specific themes. So watch out for further posts throughout the week.

The events of the week included arrival on Monday evening; an opening ceremony on Tuesday and an open-mic Tuesday night; paper presentations on Wednesday morning and afternoon and another open-mic Wednesday evening, a closing ceremony Thursday afternoon with visits to the museum and the Emir’s palace (or the Sultanate of Damagaram). About six of us women also took a trip to the market on Thursday evening.

Tamajaq writer Alhassane Hamed Ittyoube and Hausa writers at the museum in Damagaram, Zinder, Niger 10 December 2009 (c) Carmen McCain

Friday morning, about seven of those of us who were heading back to Kano trekked, dragging rolling suitcases, laptop cases, and market bags of tapioca, to the Damagaram public transport depot. There was much haggling over pricing and space. We nearly left in a small bus, but when the driver attempted to cram more passengers in, though we had settled on a price for a certain number of seats, we disembarked and left the park to arrange for a vehicle elsewhere. I will tell the story of our rather dramatic border crossing in another post.

The most personally disconcerting part of the trip (other than the dramatic border crossing that I will write about later!) was being in Niger with no money!! I went to Niger in public transport with several writers from Kano. At the border, we decided to wait to change money until we got to Damagaram, assuming there would be a better rate there, but once there we were met at the public transport depot by one of our Nigerien hosts and never actually got to a place to change our naira to CFAs. So, many of us went for about three days without having any money. Fortunately, our hosts were generous enough to feed and house us, so it wasn’t a major hardship, but it was a little disorienting to not even have the money to buy a sachet of pure water or a bundle of tissue. On the last evening, some of us women took a trip to the market and were able to find a trader to change a little naira. I immediately went in search of pure water having not had anything to drink since early in the morning! That said, it is amazing that we were taken care of so well that we were not too pinched without our cash!

Overall, it was an excellent experience. There were a few grumblings about accommodations and organization, but that seems typical of most conferences. I did feel badly that Hajiya Hafsat M.A. Abdulwahid, an important writer, the first female novelist in Hausa and winner of the 1979 NNPC writing competition for her novel So Aljannar Duniya, was not given better accommodations. She graciously shared a room with me, but a person of her status should have been given something a little better.

More details later.

“No One Can Tell Us How to Live”:Interview with Sani Danja in Sunday’s Leadership

There is a great interview that Solomon Nda-Isaiah and Kucha E. Jeremiah did with Hausa film and music star Sani Danja in this week’s Sunday Leadership. Since I can’t find the online version of the article, I will post a photo of the hard copy here and a few excerpts from the interview. This article comes from Leadership Sunday, November 29, 2009. Pages 46-47. (Unfortunately, after posting I realized that the text is not big enough to read. To read, you might have to download the photo and read in a photo viewing program.)

In the article Sani Danja talks about his music and film career, his activites as a Glo ambassador, and his opinions on the recent actions of the Kano State government on Hausa filmmakers.

Here are a few excerpts. To read fully, you may have to download the photo:

When being asked about the reasons he decided to relocate to Abuja, although having offices in both Abuja and Kano, Danja says

“The thing is, there are so many rules and regulations guiding the industry in Kano. They are numerous; we have been stopped from doing any shooting or film-related activities in Kano for like six months and now they are telling us that you’ll have to get an office, have a minimum capital of N2.5m, employ a secretary, and the rest. There are so many things. If you sum up everything, it would be close to N8 or N10m. Somebody that has been stopped from work for like six months, where do you expect him to get such money? Even if we were allowed to do the movie, how much do we get out of it? It is but chicken change, yet we pay taxes. We pay government tax, yet they have never built anything to support us. They have never contributed anything to the filming business.

In response to the management of two offices in Abuja and Kano, he replies:

There’s always division of labour in a company. You have other people who look after different aspects of a company but most of my operations are directed from Kano. My parents have taught me obedience. I don’t want to fight the government. If the government says it doesn’t want this, I’ll have to stay aside. There are other states ready to welcome us. They want us to come and are always ready to open their doors to us. We don’t sell our products alone in Kano, we sell it all over the world. Everywhere you go, you see our products. Not only in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, or Niger, they are everywhere, so for us to be stopped in one place is not a problem. You have to boost your own image. Because we want to live peacefully with everybody, that is why we had to acquire two offices, to broaden our horizons.

When asked if he had any advice for the government on disciplinary measures against filmmakers, Danja says:

First of all, they’ll have to look at it from this angle; filming is a business, and in every business, when you invest your money, you’ll think of better ways to get your money back. They should have it at the back of their minds that moviemakers have invested in their movies. One cannot be an investor while another comes to forcefully direct him on what to do. It is very impossible. If you want to direct somebody or tell him what to do in his own business, invest in the business.

As the government, they have the money and they can invest to boost the industry, they can afford to spend on every producer (at least twenty to thirty million) then tell the producer: “this is the type of film we want you to produce and we would pay you”. But in a situation where the government does not do that and you take pains to invest in the business, and they come tell you: “remove this, do this and that,” that would be impossible to obey. You have spent a lot of money, running into millions of naira, and at the end of the day, someone sits somewhere to tell you to: “Remove this. We don’t want this and that.” Those could be interesting parts that make your movie sell. How do you think that would work? I would advise the government to think again. They should know that these are people who acquire the resources invested in the business independently. They didn’t go to bother anybody or steal. They do this to keep their soul and body going, and they pay taxes to the government at the end of the day. I think the government needs to support us so that we would bring more money to them. We can be made role models for others who have already engaged or wish to engage themselves in one dubious act or the other to know that it is not only by engaging in criminal acts that you can make it in life. There are legitimate ways to better one’s life.

The government should not just sit down, creating rules and laws that would cripple our activities at the end of the day, without minding the effect it would have on us. If the son to any of the government officials were involved in something like this, they would have thought of better ways to handle it. The worst part of it is that any of our members who happens to make any mistake would be sentenced to jail. For example, if you record an album they don’t like, they won’t even try you. All they would do is to jail you or frustrate you by refusing to renew your revenue. They take you to jail without trial in the end. It is inhuman. We are not criminals. Even in armed robbery cases, they grant them bail. Here we are, honourably engaging in legitimate business. [...]