Monthly Archives: February 2010

Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano

I was told the following information by several people I will not name. I cannot, at this moment, verify the details of this report, only that it is oral testimony (over the phone) from several people who were involved in the event. I hope to talk to someone in the administration of the Alliance Francaise tomorrow to get more concrete details.

Apparently, yesterday, 26 February 2010, the three day Kano Music Festival, being hosted at the Alliance Francaise in Kano was shut down on the first day of the event by representatives of the Kano State Censorship Board and not allowed to continue with the rest of it’s scheduled events. According to one person I talked to, the festival was closed down because Hausa musician Maryam Fantimoti was to perform and she was not registered with the Kano State Censorship Board.

The organizers of the event had brought musicians from other parts of Africa and Europe to perform at the music festival. According to one press release on the Guide 2 Nigeria website:

There will be performances from several musical groups from across the globe including the famous Soubyana Music from Chad, the Dangana group from Niger, the Nassiru Garba group from Nigeria and the Trio Belhumeur from Upper Brittain.

Another source told me that over 20,000 euros had been spent on the cultural event, which did not end up holding, as it was closed by representatives of the Kano state government.

The Alliance Francaise has hosted the Kano Music Festival (Kamfest) for six years in a row.  The event had the support of the Kano State History and Culture Bureau.

Readers may recall that this is coming on the heels of a recent closure of 15 shops by the Kano State Censorship Board for selling films on the history of Islam. The Kano State Censorship Board has also been responsible for multiple arrests and business closures of those working in entertainment related fields. In a related closure of a cultural event, the hisbah closed down a fashion show organized in honour of designer Zainab Hamza in May 2009.

Allah ya jikan Kannywood actress Safiya Ahmed and director/producer Zulkiflu Muhammed

Safiya Ahmed (courtesy of Ibrahim Sheme at Bahaushe mai ban Haushi)

Inna lillahi wa Innah Ilahim Raji’un.

I received an email yesterday telling of the death of the young Kannywood actress Safiya Ahmed after an illness. She passed away in Kano on 26 February 2010. Safiya’s final words in a recent Fim magazine interview, when she was asked if she had anything to say or advice to give to her colleagues in the film industry,  were:

Kira na ba ya wuce in ce mu ci gaba da yin addu’a. Kuma ina kira da mu ji tsoron Allah, mu so junan mu.

I don’t have more to say except that we should keep praying. Also, I’m calling on us to fear God and love each other.

Safiya’s death comes only a week after the death of Kannywood director and producer Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik) on the 18th of February, 2010. His obituary can be found in last week’ Aminiya. Ibrahim Sheme also has a tribute to Hauwa Ali Dodo, Zulkiflu Muhammad, and Safiya Ahmed on his blog Bahaushe Mai Ban Haushi.

The late Zulkiflu Muhammad (courtesy of Ibrahim Sheme on Bahaushe mai ban Haushi)

Allah ya jikansu. Allah ya sa su huta.

Amin

(UPDATE 27 December 2013. Unfortunately, the Fim Magazine site, which had a photo I had previously linked to now seems to be defunct.)

To read other tributes I’ve written for Hausa actors and filmmakers gone before their time, see my posts on

Actress Hauwa Ali Dodo, who died 1 January 2010,

Actress Amina Garba, who died on 21 November 2010,

Comedian and director Lawal Kaura, who died on 13 December 2011,

Actress Maryam Umar Aliyu, who died on 12 April 2011,

Director Muhammadu Balarabe Sango, who died on 1 December 2012

Kano State Censors Board bans films on the history of Islam and the prophets and shuts down 15 shops

"Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops," Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, p. 33

Two days ago (my internet has been down for a day and a half–thus the delay in posting this), I read in the Sunday Trust and the Hausa language weekly Aminiya a story I had heard from filmmakers a week and a half ago before my trip to Abuja. I hadn’t blogged about it because I had only heard ji-ta-ji-ta (rumours) about it, but the newspapers confirm the story.

Apparently, according to Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu in the Sunday Trust, 14 February 2010, page 33, “Kano films censors board shuts 15 shops,” the Kano State Censorship Board closed 15 video shops over “selling tapes of the history of Prophet Yusuf.” (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the link to the article online. If I find it, I will link to it here. In the meantime, here is a photograph of the article.)

The Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, “said in an interview in Kano that

“banning the sales of such films has become necessary as it is against the teachings of Islam and therefore will not be allowed in the state.”

Rabo also mentions that

“under aged children who can easily be influenced are also involved in hawking such films along the streets without knowing the implications. He also said the ban was as well in the interest of potential customers who might not get to these children even if they found the films were bad.”

In response,

[S]ecretary of the Kano film sellers association, Malam Isa, described shutting down the shops by the censorship board as unfortunate as the director general of the board did not keep to the promise of briefing them on what stand it is taking on the sales of the film before acting.

“I can recall that the DG sometimes in October last year invited us for a meeting at A Dai Daita Sahu and during the meeting, one Islamic scholar, Malam Aminu Daurawa, mentioned that watching the film was not appropriate and after the meeting, we met the DG at his office on the matter and he told us that was just a dialogue among scholars which does not involve us. He then promised that he was going to inform us on any development thereafter but unfortunately he didn’t. The next thing we saw was the closure of the shops” he said.

Malam Isa said that the film sellers:

“have reported the case to the Emir of Kano and as Muslims we are ready to comply with the ban so long as it is Islamic scholars that will come together to prove that the film is contrary to the teachings of Islam.”

He also lamented the loss of business this was causing to the shop owners saying:

“business has been their major source of livelihood and now that the board has closed the shops, these people are finding it hard to survive.”

The Hausa weekly Aminiya, 12 February 2010, provides more details. I will provide a summary of the article in English here—please note that this is NOT a direct translation but a summary in my own words.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi writes in “Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” (p. 21) (“The [Censor’s ]Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”) that the director of the censors Board Malam Abubakar Rabo went to the Kofar Wambai market and closed four shops where they were selling films on the history of Islam, specifically the film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf [Joseph] and the film The Message.

In a radio program on Radio Kano, DG Abubakar Rabo said that “the censors board had closed 15 shops in Kano and he warned others who were selling the films.”

Aminiya reporters went to the Kofar Wambai market to see the shops that had been closed, and one of the film marketers, Musa Abdullahi Sanka who started selling film cassettes in 1976, said that the story was true. The Censors board had come and closed shops selling films on the history of the Prophet Yusuf and the history of Islam, The Message.

When Aminya asked Abdullahi Sanka what reason the Censors Board had given for closing the shops, he said that the censors said that they should stop selling the film because apparently there were some Islamic scholars who had issued a fatwa on selling films on the history of the prophets, saying such films were not appropriate.

The marketer responded saying that the businessmen wanted the well-respected Islamic scholars in Kano to come together and say whether the films were appropriate or not. If they said they were not appropriate, then how could they correct them? If they gave very strong reasons for banning the films, then the marketers would stop selling them.

The marketer told Aminiya that four shops in Kofar Wambai had been closed: that of Alhaji Salisu, that of Ahmadu Hussaini, that of Anas, and another Igbo marketer whose name he did not give.

He said that the film sellers got the films from Misira, others from Lagos, others were brought from Arab countries. He said that he had heard that the film on the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) was made by Shi’a in Iran, and that is why the Censorship Board had cooperated with the fatwa of an Izala scholar against the film.

When he was asked if he had seen the film and if it seemed to be appropriate, he said that he hadn’t seen the entire film but that he remembered how when he had been fifteen years old, the late Islamic Scholar Sheikh Nasiru Kabara had told the history of the Prophet Yusuf, and what he had seen of the film followed exactly what the scholar had told them.

The Secretary of the Film sellers association of Kofar Wambai Market, Malam L. Isa said that the discussion with the Censors board had started last year. The Censors Board had invited them to a meeting organized by A Dai Daita Sahu (the government sponsored Societal Reorientation Directorate) on 24 October, where it was said that Sheikh Aminu Daurawa had preached a sermon in which he said that it was not right to watch this type of film on the history of the Prophet Yusuf. “When we heard this, we asked the director of the Kano State Censorship board about this. He told us we shouldn’t worry that it would not affect us. But we were surprised that day, without notice, without letting us know, people came to the market and closed shops belonging to those in our association.”

He said that after the shops were closed, they complained to Malam Rabo who did not listen patiently to them. This is why they went with their complaint to the Emir of Kano. “What is happening with us right now. We went to Director Malam Rabo, but he didn’t listen to us or give us any good answer. He even kicked us out, so we got up and we went to our father, the emir of Kano, and carried our complaint to him. Since there are big men in power, we should let them know what is going on with us—If they don’t know what has been happening, they will now know.”

The Secretary continued,” We called on the emir to negotiate between us and Malam Rabo because we have been obeying the government and the censors board, but now there is no understanding between us. People were sent from the board to us without anyone letting us know there was  such a law.”

Another marketer Alhaji Nasiru Ibrahim K’ok’i, better known as Palasd’inawa, also expressed his unhappiness at the actions of the Censor’s Board. He said that they had been watching films on the lives of the prophets since they had been children. On Muslim holidays, the Kano state television station used to play them.

“It shouldn’t be that the judgment of a single Islamic scholar becomes the basis of the entire Muslim culture. Now Malam Rabo should tell us what kinds of films that we should be watching, because they have banned Hausa films saying that they are spoiling women and children. So now why are they banning films on Islamic history, since no one can say they are spoiling culture?’

The director of the Kano State Censors Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim explained the reason for the ban. He said that it is in accordance with the culture and the findings of Islamic scholars who said that such films were not fitting as they were not respectful to the prophets.

The gist of Malam Rabo’s statement was that the Kano State Censors Board was created keeping in mind Islam and the judgments of Islamic scholars who guide the community. The board had heard from the association of Islamic scholars and other religious organizations that people were trying to make money on offensive films made about the lives of the messengers of God. He also noted that they had called a meeting through a Dai Daita Sahu (Societal Reorientation Directorate) where one of the Islamic scholars had shown the danger of these types of films that were insulting to the Messengers of God and culture.

Malam Rabo said that this is the reason the Censor’s board said that the selling of these types of films must stop because it was not fitting to show another man in the film claiming to be the Messenger of God. He further said that the Board would continue to hunt down those who brokered and spread films in Kano state, especially, he emphasized, those who were selling films on the sides of the roads because this is illegal.

To read the article in Hausa, see the photo of the article here:

Board bans selling films on the history of Islam in Kano”], Aminiya, 12 February 2010, p. 21″]

“Hukuma ta haramta sayar da fina-finan tarihin Musulunci a Kano” [“The [Censor’s

Interview with me in last week’s Aminiya

Here is an interview Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi of the Hausa language weekly Aminiya did with me in December while at the Indigenous Language Literature conference in Damagaram, Niger, December 2009. It was published in last week’s Aminiya, 5-11 February, on pages 20-21. Despite the awful pictures of me, I was quite pleased with how the interview turned out (and pleased with how he edited and corrected my Hausa!). To read the interview, you will probably have to download the photos and open them at 100%. (If the photos are showing up too big to read, try clicking on my home page link. It should allow you to access beyond the margins. UPDATE: 13 February 2010: Actually probably the best way to read the article(as pointed out by Desertgills) is to click on the photos–that should take you to my flickr page. After that click on the All sizes icon at the top of the photo and pick “original size”–that should make it big enough to read… UPDATE 7 April 2010, I actually just found an online version of the interview, so no need to go to all the trouble clicking on photos.)

There were several funny things I thought I should note. First of all, the headline on the front page of Aminiya is “Ta Karya Hannun Mijinta kan Kud’in Cefane”/”She broke her husband’s arm over cooking money.” Aminiya typically features sensational tabloid-style headlines to human interest stories like this. I laughed when I saw it though, because of all the photos on the front of the paper, mine is the only one of a woman. So, naturally, the reader might think that there is this crazy baturiya who broke her husband’s arm….

from Aminiya 5-11 February 2010, pages 20-21

The second cringe moment comes on the second page (page 21) when I am talking about 19th century writers who were writing about “love” in addition to other social issues. I was making a point about the dangers of judging novels as “merely” romance novels because they include elements of romance, and also pointing out that Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and other literary icons of the early 19th century were writing in a reading culture that was filled with the popular “Gothic romances,”  often called “trash” in their day. Jane Austen mocked these novels in her satirical Northanger Abbey, while Charlotte and Emily Bronte took the tropes of the Gothic Romance to the next level in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. My point was that these writers were reacting to and building on this popular literature and a reading culture that is necessary for the emergence of any literature. I remember in the interview, talking about “Jane Austen” and the “Charlotte Bronte.” Unfortunately, that somehow got transcribed as “Jeane Austin” and “Sheldon.” Please note, that while Sidney Sheldon is a popular writer, he was not writing in the 1800s, and he was not whom I was referring to…

Here is a summary of the interview in English.

Malam Bashir asks me how I started to become interested in Hausa.

I tell him that I grew up in Jos, where my father is a professor at the University of Jos, and I started learning Hausa there. But when I started my MA degree at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I was required to learn an African language and decided to continue with Hausa. I went to Sokoto, where my teacher Dr. Malami Buba brought me Hausa novels and films.  I had been planning to base my research on English language Nigerian literature, but when I started watching Hausa films and reading Hausa novels, I realized that there were a lot of people outside of Hausa speaking areas who had no idea it existed, even to the point where people often complain about the lack of reading culture in Nigeria. But I saw it was not the case in the North where people were reading Hausa.

He asked me what I could say about Hausa writers and filmmakers.

I said that they really impressed me. I said I had always been interested in writer’s movements and the history of literature [such as the Romantic poets etc]. When I came to Hausaland, I realized that the sort of literary/art movement I had always been interested in was happening here in Hausa. I said that I was impressed by how writers and filmmakers and singers often worked together. I mentioned Ibrahim Sheme’s novel ‘Yar Tsana as particularly impressive and said I also loved the novels of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino, Nazir Adam Salih, etc.

He asked me about which films most impressed me. This was the most embarrassing part of the interview because there were films I wanted to talk about but I couldn’t remember their names. I mentioned Sani Mu’azu’s film Hafsat and the film Zazzab’i.

He asked me about the importance of the Hausa language in the world.

I said it was one of the most important languages in Africa, that some statistics show it has more speakers than Swahili, which means it is the largest language spoken in Africa after perhaps Arabic. I also thought that the proliferation of Hausa films and novels was helping the development of Hausa. I gave the example of those who were not of Hausa ethnicity but who enjoyed the films. I mentioned also that when visiting the office of VOA-Hausa earlier that year, one of the reporters showed me some Ghanaian Hausa films made in Accra.  I further mentioned the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o who is always talking about the importance of writing in African languages. Also if we look at the history of literature in English, if writers like Shakespeare [Chaucer] etc had not chosen to write in their own languages, although English was not yet the language of power at the time, English would be a much poorer language and we would not have these great literary works with us.

He asked me if I was thinking about writing a book in Hausa.

I said that there were certainly writers who wrote in languages of their adopted countries, like the Polish-British writer Joseph Conrad and the Russian-American writer [Vladimir Nabokov]. However, I said that my Hausa was not strong enough to write a book yet, but maybe if I lived in Northern Nigeria for the next fifty years, my Hausa would be good enough to write creatively in it. Right now I write in English.

I’ll skip the next question and move on to the first question on page 21, where he asked me what I think about what happened between filmmakers, writers, and the Kano State Censorship Board.

I said that I had much to say about this but I would focus my comments on my own area of expertise. Since I know about literature and the history of literature in English, I would talk about the parallels between what I saw here and what happened then. I said that Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters [which somehow got transcribed as "Jean Austin and Sheldon"] were writing in England during the 1800s, and they were writing about love. They were writing during a time when there were lots of books floating around [Gothic romances etc] that people said were not great literature, that these novels were spoiling the upbringing of young girls etc (the same things that are being said now about Hausa literature). But I said that though the novels of Austin and the Brontes talked about love, they also talked about other social issues of the time, poverty, and class and injustice.  I said that we could draw a parallel between this English literature and contemporary Hausa literature. Although there are films and novels that focus on love, there are also a lot of other social issues that are caught up in these stories. During the conference in Niger, Malam Rabo (the head of the Kano State Censorship board) proclaimed that he would not read any more love stories for a year [he said that writers should focus on more "important" social problems like declaiming drug use, etc]. But I would ask him, if he says he will ban love stories, what will that do to Hausa literature and films? There is danger if there is someone sitting in the government saying that writers and filmmakers must write or make films about certain prescribed issues and not about others. There should be some amount of distance between creative artists and the government, because the writers and filmmakers are the voice of the ordinary people. They have the power to present problems that ordinary people suffer, so they shouldn’t be prevented from bringing these things out. Also, if Malam Rabo says that for a year he will refuse to read love stories at the censorship board, this is a way of suppressing the voice of women, because many of the stories classified as “littattafan soyayya”/love stories are those novels written by women. Also, these books might deal with romantic love but they are also about problems of the household and the relationships between husbands and wives. If you say that writers must write about the problems of drugs etc., it seems that you are saying that the problems on the street are more important than the problems of the household or the family. I believe it is very dangerous to say you are going to ban an entire theme in literature and only allow the themes you are interested in. Each writer should be allowed to write on those things that he or she wants to write about. If you want to send a message to the readers, then you can write your own book. If the readers like it, then they can read your book and leave behind the love stories, but one mustn’t prevent writers from writing about their lives. There are a lot of complaints about writers writing on adult themes that spoil the upbringing of children, but there are other avenues to address this beside issuing bans. For example, there could be a law passed [like that of the National Film and Video Censors Board] that books with adult themes cannot be sold to children–there can be a differentiation between books written for children and those written for adults.

Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi asks me about what I think about Malam Rabo’s statement at the writer’s conference about how the foreigners and Europeans who said they were interested in Hausa language and culture were not really interested  in it–that they were just tricking and deceiving people for ulterior motives.

I say that I can only talk about myself–that there is no way that I can know about the motivations of every other European or foreigner who comes here. But I said that I truly do love Hausa language, literature, and culture. I came here to this country to do research and I would love to stay and live here and continue to raise the interest of those outside in Hausa language and culture. I am certainly not lying about this. I truly love Hausa and Hausa people.

He finally asks me about my marital status and whether I could marry a Hausa man and live here.

I said that marriage is according to God’s will, and that I will follow whatever God has prepared for me.

Presenting in Abuja today on the importance of contemporary Hausa literature

For those in Abuja, I will be presenting today on the importance of contemporary Hausa literature to national and world literature.  You are welcome to come heckle me. Greenlines Restaurant, 11 Aba close off Ogbomosho Street, Area 8, Garki. 5pm. Friday.

(Update 7 February 2010, Sunday: Another related event tonight, 6pm, GAP, Play bar and lounge, close to Pennial Apartments, Maitama, Abuja. I will be talking informally about Hausa literature and film.)

AN ELLITERATE INITIATIVE POWERED BY THE NATIONAL FILM AND VIDEO CENSORS BOARD, G.A.P

UPDATE 8 February 2010, since my presentations I have received questions about the details of the publication, etc, and I compiled this list of links. There are far more, but this is a good introduction:
Interview with Hausa novelist Sa’adatu Baba:http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=43816

Interview with bestselling author Bilkisu Funtua:
http://ibrahim-sheme.blogspot.com/2007/04/bilkisu-funtuwa-interview.html

Interview with groundbreaking author Balaraba Ramat Yakubu:
http://www.nigeriafilms.com/content.asp?contentid=2774&ContentTypeID=2

Interview with the first female novelist who wrote in Hausa Hafsat Abdulwahid: http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/ArtsandCulture/5501274-147/story.csp

Another interview with Hafsat Abdulwahid:
http://www.africanwriter.com/articles/310/1/Interview-with-Hafsatu-Ahmed-Abdulwahid/Page1.html

Info on the current censorship crisis in Kano:
http://ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=43857

Hausa Popular Literature Database at SOAS, London:http://hausa.soas.ac.uk/

“Hausa literary movement and the 21st century” by Yusuf Adamu: http://www.kanoonline.com/publications/pr_articles_hausa_literary_movement.html

“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: http://www.ifeas.uni-mainz.de/workingpapers/FurnissHausa.pdf

“Loud Bubbles from a Silent Brook: Trends and Tendencies in Contemporary Hausa Prose Writing” academic article by Abdalla Uba Adamu
http://inscribe.iupress.org/doi/abs/10.2979/RAL.2006.37.3.133

“Islamic-Hausa Feminism Meets Northern Nigerian Romance: The Cautious Rebellion of Bilkisu Funtuwa” academic article by Novian Whitsitt
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4106/is_200304/ai_n9219184/

“Parallel Worlds: Reflective Womanism in Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s Ina son sa haka” academic article by Prof Abdalla Uba Adamu
http://www.africaresource.com/jenda/issue4/adamu.html

Hausa writer’s database (in hausa):
http://marubutanhausa.blogspot.com/

My blog post on a Hausa writer’s conference in Niger:http://carmenmccain.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/a-hausa-literary-expedition-to-damagaram-zinder-niger/

etc, etc, etc….