Category Archives: Obituaries/Tributes

My memories of Dan Ibro in Weekly Trust today

Ibro Dan Siyasa

I remember in the middle of the 2008 Jos crisis laughing alongside an audience of Christian refugees at Ibro Dan Siyasa

Last week I wrote up some of my memories of one of Kannywood’s biggest stars Rabilu Musa, more often known by his comedic alter-ego Dan Ibro. Musa passed away last week on 10 December 2014, due to complications related to kidney disease.  He had apparently struggled with the illness for some time. When he was jailed by the mobile court then attached to the Kano State Censorship Board (a kangaroo court he later mocked in Kotun Ibro), he spent most of his jail term in the hospital. (When Kwankwaso became governor in 2011, Rabilu Musa was also given a seat on the Kano State Censorship Board.)

"An Kwantar da Ibro Asabiti" article published in Leadership Hausa, 17-23 October 2008

“An Kwantar da Ibro Asabiti” article published in Leadership Hausa, 17-23 October 2008

This week, my editor (who is still being kind to me despite my being MIA from my column) at Weekly Trust asked me if I would grant an interview about my memories of Dan Ibro, along the lines of the blog post. Once some time has passed, I’ll archive the whole interview on my blog, but for now you can read the interview on the Trust site here: “My Memories of Dan Ibro”

Ibro Dan Siyasa

Ibro Dan Siyasa

I will try to figure out how to upload the interview I did with him in April 2009, once I have access to good internet.

In the meantime, here are a few other Trust articles and tributes to the late comedian:

“Father of Late Comedy Star Dan Ibro Speaks… ‘Life will never be the same without Dan Ibro” by Ibrahim Musa Giginyu

“Tribute to an Unrivalled Arewa Comedy Icon” by Umar Rayyan

“Dan Ibro: Exit of Kannywood’s Comedy icon” by Ibrahim Musa Giginyu

“Popular Hausa Comedian Ibro Dies” by Ibrahim Musa Giginyu

Other articles include

Noorer’s “Social Media Reactions to Rabilu Musa Ibro’s Death” on Kannywoodscene

Umar IBN’s obituary  “Cikakken Tahirin Marigayi Rabilu Musa Dan Ibro” on Kannywood Exclusive.

Mohammad Lere’s article “Comedian ‘Dan Ibro’ Buried in Kano” in Premium Times

Awwal Ahmad Janyau’s “Rabilu Musa Dan Ibro Ya Rasu” in RFI

“Dan wasan Hausa, Rabilu Dan Ibro Ya Rasu” BBC

Finally, in an interview with FIM Magazine in March 2008, Rabilu Musa told them, “In ka ji an ce an daina yi da Ibro, to sai dai in Ibro ya mutu”/”If you hear that Ibro is no longer performing, it’s because Ibro is dead.”

Rest in peace, Rabilu Musa. May Ibro live on. Allah ya jikansa. Allah ya sa shi huta. Allah ya ba mu hakuri.

In ka ji an daina yi da Ibro, to sai dai in Ibro ya mutu" - Rabilu Musa

“If you hear that Ibro is no longer performing, it’s because Ibro is dead.” -Rabilu Musa, March 2008, Rest in peace, Ibro.

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Remembering ‘Dan Ibro (tare da baturiyarsa) (Allah ya jikan ‘Dan Ibro)

This morning, I yielded to the temptation to go onto Facebook before starting my work.  I found waiting for me a private message from a friend telling me that Rabilu Musa aka ‘Dan Ibro, the most famous comedian and perhaps the most famous actor in the Hausa film industry, had just passed away.(BBC, Premium Times, RFI). He was only in his forties. Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un.

Dan Ibro praying (courtesy of Rabilu Musa DAN Ibro Facebook page)

It is a gutting loss to the industry and to millions of people all over northern Nigeria, who laughed at Ibro’s antics even as the bombs were exploding around them.

An explanation:

I’ve been gone from this blog since June, since even before then, really, as I tried to reduce distractions to a bare minimum while I pushed out the PhD. I kept up with the column at Weekly Trust until August. A week before my revisions were due, I desperately asked my editor for a month break, which he graciously granted me. I finished the PhD and then just kind of collapsed. I had been taking two days and an all nighter every week trying to write my weekly column. I had written throughout the last four years of my PhD programme, even through the defense. But with the kidnap of the Chibok girls and ever more atrocities coming out of the northeast, sometimes venturing further West, I felt like I couldn’t write about anything else. How can you write about novels and movies and walks in pretty American parks when ethnic cleansing is going on—when perhaps some of your readers have been killed in the violence? My one-month break turned into many months. I got busy applying for academic jobs and going to conferences and travelling back and forth to Nigeria. I pushed away thoughts of the column. I couldn’t handle the thought of having one more deadline every week or of having to write anything else while people were being murdered and bombs were going off.

Then ‘Dan Ibro died.

And I realized he made people laugh in the midst of all of these horrors (In October there was even a Ibro Likitan Ebola poster floating around on Twitter), and that perhaps it is this laughter, these stories, these songs, these dreams of ordinary people in ordinary and extraordinary times, that are what help us

Ibro Ebola Doctor (courtesy of Kannywood Exclusive TL: https://twitter.com/kannywoodex/status/504397310957457408 )

survive. We shouldn’t allow Boko Haram or any other threat to take laughter and story and song away from us. During the Jos crisis of 2008, dozens of people sought refuge in our house. One night, I brought out my vcd of Ibro Dan Siyasa [Ibro Politician], and everyone, all crammed into our parlour, sat there laughing. Christians in Jos laughing at the Muslim Ibro’s comedy, in the midst of a religious/ethnic/political crisis. I thought, then, that there is a bridge here, this Kannywood, this comedy, there’s something here that goes beyond the bitter statements I’d heard from Christian refugees throughout the crisis. The same people who had cursed “the Hausa” and cursed “the Muslims” were laughing at ‘Dan Ibro. His comedy was bigger than fear and hatred and politics.

So here are my own memories of Ibro.

Like any fan, I have watched dozens of his films—playing in the background on Africa Magic Hausa as I would write in my room or in the little kiosk where I bought yoghurt and bread when I lived in Kano. I’d watch short comedy sketches excerpted from his longer films that musicians and filmmakers would show me on their phones in studios. Sometimes I’d peek over the shoulders of strangers in taxis giggling at an Ibro sketch on their phone.

When a director and producer I did not know approached me on Zoo Road with the idea for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya, I laughed and agreed without too much further thought. I liked the idea. I said I would do it, if I could get an interview with Ibro. The producer agreed.

One of the vcd covers for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya (more coming once I can find my hard copies in the various boxes where they are packed)

One of the vcd covers for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya (more coming once I can find my hard copies in the various boxes where they are packed)

Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya was made in early 2009, in the midst of the Kano State Censorship crisis. Because of the crisis, we had to leave Kano to shoot the film. We met up with Rabilu Musa on the outskirts of Kano, and I rode in the back seat of his car as he drove towards Jigawa State. He was dressed in a normal white kaftan, and without the bright signature costume, the tall red cap or the comedian’s grin, he looked like an ordinary person—not one of Nigeria’s biggest stars. He was very quiet and did not say much as we drove. Even with all of my exposure to Kannywood, I remain bashful in the presence of fame. I hoped for an interview but didn’t quite know how to ask him. We stopped once on the side of the road, perhaps to buy snacks, and people passed without recognizing him until some of the children did a double take and then started chanting “Ibro, Ibro.”

We arrived at a village a little bit outside of Dutse in Jigawa, and we ate lunch before starting to shoot. I was still too shy to talk to him, as you can see from the below photo of me grinning like an idiot while Ibro eats in the background. But the director fulfilled his part of the bargain, and we had a brief 6-7 minute interview. I tried to ask him about his ordeal the year before, at the hands of the Kano State Censorship Board. He didn’t want to talk about it. I got what I could. (I’ve transcribed the Hausa, though I haven’t yet translated it, and will post it later on this blog).

Eating on set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya. (Ibro in white). (Me, grinning like idiot)

Eating on set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya. (Ibro in white). (Me, grinning like idiot)

Then it was time to act. I was led to a small, borrowed room in someone’s compound and told to change into my “Western dress”. About a minute later, before I had a chance to smooth down my hair still flattened from my headtie, I was rushed out to do the first scene where I drag (my own) suitcase into the village with Ibro, asking him why we aren’t going to Abuja as he promised me. There was no script. At least none that I was given. The director gave us a minute of instruction (I was to speak in English at first and later in broken Hausa), and we were off. Ibro is a brilliant comedian and knew exactly what to do. I just tried to keep up.

That day, Ibro had somewhere else to be. I completed my scenes with him, a few more were cut, perhaps, and he rushed off to his next film. We continued with Baba Ari, ‘Dan Auta, and the others at a more leisurely pace.

On set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.  Left to right. Director Muhammad Y. Muhammad, Baba Ari, me, Dan Auta, Producer Lawal D. Funtua.

On set of Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.
Left to right. Director Muhammad Y. Muhammad, Baba Ari, me, Dan Auta, Producer Lawal D. Funtua.

After production, I was embarrassed. I felt I had acted terribly. I felt like if produced differently it could have, perhaps, been funnier. I never mentioned the film on this blog and rarely elsewhere, because I didn’t want people to see me in it.

But on the streets, people would call out “matan Ibro,” “matan Ibro.” People would jokingly ask me how my husband Ibro was. And so it was that “matan Ibro” became part of my public persona, even though I was still too shy to talk to him.

The original vcd cover for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.

The original vcd cover for Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya.

Eventually, I was able to overcome my embarrassment enough to watch parts 1 through 3 of the Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya and to look at it with enough distance to include an analysis of it in my PhD dissertation. I realized that it didn’t matter how I acted. It wasn’t about me. The baturiya was just a symbol to be played with and mocked—some of the funniest scenes were discussions of the baturiya, where I did not appear but which were made possible by my token appearance elsewhere: the baturiyar kwantainer, Ibro could not pass off to his friend once I became a nuisance because he claimed he had gotten me from a container, which could have come from Togo or Benin, rather than America; the baturiya whom Ibro really “made suffer” as people on the street would laugh to me.

Ibro Ya Auri Baturiya was where I most connected with Rabilu Musa, but he had many more brilliant films. They weren’t usually polished, but they were usually hilarious and filled with sometimes biting political humour. The character of Ibro took on a life of his own. His voice often imitated by singers, including Sadi Sidi Sharifai, so that the character Ibro became disembodied from the actor himself. I mention him over 40 different times in my PhD thesis, and do an extended analysis of his film Kotun Ibro, a sly dig at the mobile court which persecuted so many filmmakers during the censorship crisis.

Ibro's film Kotun Ibro poked fun at the mobile court that had arrested him.

Ibro’s film Kotun Ibro poked fun at the mobile court that had arrested him.

Dan Ibro was an institution. He has become an era.

He will not act in any new films, but he will stay with us in a thousand different comedies. I heard his voice singing on the radio today, as a broadcaster mourned him. He brawls and weeps and shouts and complains and dances on a million different screens. We will keep laughing, even when, perhaps, we should be crying.

Allah ya jikansa, Allah ya sa shi huta. Yaba mu hakurin wannan babban rashi.

Postscript

As I wrote this today, I saw the news of another bomb in Kano at the Kwari cloth market. Allah ya kiyaye mu. What a horrible day Kano has had.

Sometimes it’s overwhelming to contemplate how many people from the Hausa film industry have died in the past few years. Here are my tributes to a few of them.

Actress Hauwa Ali Dodo (Biba Problem), who died 1 January 2009,

Director Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik), who died 18 February 2010,

Actress Safiya Ahmed, who died on 26 February 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

Kofi Awoonor, Al Shabab, Boko Haram and the struggle for the New Dawn

(courtesy of the Story Moja Hay Festival site http://storymojahayfestival.com/)

When I heard on Sunday morning, 22 September 2013 that the great Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor had been killed in the Westgate Mall attacks, I began to obsessively follow google news and twitter with updates about the attacks. As I later related in my column for the next Saturday, I guiltily remembered after sitting online all day that even more people had been killed in Benisheik, Borno, than had been killed in the more widely covered siege on the Nairobi mall. It was a gut-wrenching week all round, with terrorist attacks that killed over 70 mourners at two funerals in Baghdad, Iraq; around 160 travellers on the road in Benisheik, Nigeria; at least 72 people at the mall in Nairobi, Kenya; and around 85 worshippers at All Saints church in Peshawar, Pakistan.

As I obsessively followed the news in preparation for my column published the following Saturday, I came across a New York Daily News article (yes, I know it’s a tabloid) that had a screen capture of the HMS Press Office twitter account, ostensibly run by Al Shabab. This was one of the several accounts Twitter shut down during the siege on the Westgate Mall. I had followed the chilling live tweeting from one of the HMS accounts during the massacre. Unlike Boko Haram’s Youtube videos released in Hausa, the tweeting was all in English of a sort that makes believable the speculations that there were Americans and Britons involved. As I read down the list, I gasped at the tweet at the bottom of the image, right before the screen capture cut off. It read “A new era is on the horizon. A new dawn, illuminating towards #Khifaafa. It’s a paradigm shift #Westgate”

Al Shabab tweet--a new dawn--cropped

The use of the metaphor “a new dawn” shook me because I had just spent days reading through the tributes to Kofi Awoonor, his poetry, and the poem widely used as his self-written elegy, from his new collection Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems to be published in 2014.  

It is named “Across the New Dawn.”

It is easy to read the poem as prophetic now.

 We are the celebrants

whose fields were

overrun by rogues

and other bad men who

interrupted our dance

with obscene songs and bad gestures

There are warring notions here of what this “new dawn” is. Al Shabab presents it as a new era when its brand of extremism will take over the world–a paradigm shift. And if the four attacks across Africa and Asia are any indication, it does seem as though violent terrorists are pushing through a new order based on hate and sadism. It is, as it is meant to be, terrifying. This past week following the horrific attack that killed what the Vanguard claims killed up to 78 students in a hostel in at the Gujba College of Agriculture in Yobe State, I wanted to vomit when I heard of it. My mind couldn’t focus. As I wrote this week, I sat physically at my computer all day long unable to write anything.

What kind of person kills students in their beds? What kind of person joins a death cult? What kind of person slaughters the children of the poor?  In the dark? While they are sleeping?

Why?

I fear triteness.

What trite words of comfort can one offer when 78 students have been killed in their beds? When terrorists have murdered sleep in the northwest for over three years?

Yet, the convergence of these two warring notions of what the “new dawn” entails must mean something. I think (I hope, I pray) that Awoonor’s dawn will light the sky after the sun has set on Al Shabab and Boko Haram and Al Qaeda, and other terrorists who would attack innocent people to prove their ideology. Awoonor spent his life writing dirges, recognizing the evil that there is, yet he also he recognizes like Martin Luther King that the “arc of the universe bends towards justice.” There is a wisdom in his poetry built on generations of Ewe oral song that all the hatred of terror cannot twist. He writes of death, as a kind of balance,

No; where the worm eats

a grain grows.

the consultant deities

have measured the time

with long winded

arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes

to the door with his own

inimitable calling card

shall find a homestead

resurrected with laughter and dance

and the festival of the meat

of the young lamb and the red porridge

of the new corn.

It’s the archtypal life cycle of mourning and joy, death and birth, night and morning that runs throughout the Bible, which itself builds on and collects an oral tradition. As the King James version translates David’s song in Psalm 30:5

weeping may endure for a night,

but joy comes in the morning.

It makes me remember how I grappled with with writing about Easter in the dark days earlier this year. In my column the day before Palm Sunday, I wrote: 

But this week, it seems only appropriate to mourn, once again, so many senseless deaths, so much needless violence, to cry out as the Biblical character Job did, “Where then is my hope? […]I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer,” (17:15, 30:20) to cry out like Jesus did on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
There has been so much tragedy over the past year that I think most of us have become numb. We step over the bodies and keep going. But every once in a while something touches you, the death of someone you know, the news of children targeted and attacked. In these times, the evil of this world envelops you in its horror, and you just want to lie down and let the tears empty you.

It is in this time that I look for scriptures that remind me how humans survive. The beauty of the Bible for me is that it is a document that spans a history of thousands of years, and encompasses dozens of genres. The books within record the sufferings of humans throughout time. The fall into despair in the darkness of night and the release into joy in the light of the morning is an archetype found over and over again in the Bible. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to groan, we have been doing it for millennia.
The biblical book of Job is written in the form much like a play that tells the story of a good man who loses his wealth, his ten children, even his own health. Finally, he is plagued by “comforters” who insist all of his suffering must be his own fault. As he questions God, he begins to see human life in the context of eternity.

“There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths. When daylight is gone, the murderer rises up and kills the poor and needy; in the night he steals forth like a thief. […] For all of them, deep darkness is their morning; they make friends with the terrors of darkness.”
Yet such evil men “are foam on the surface of the water; […]The womb forgets them, the worm feasts on them; evil men are no longer remembered but are broken like a tree. They prey on the barren and childless woman, and to the widow show no kindness. But God drags away the mighty by his power; though they become established, they have no assurance of life. He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but his eyes are on their ways. For a little while they are exalted, and then they are gone; they are brought low and gathered up like all the others; they are cut off like heads of grain” (24:13-24)

Job comes to trust that, in time, God will “redeem” his suffering, even when he does not understand: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.” (19:25-27). While he cannot control what happens to him, he acknowledges that “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’” (28: 12-28)

The lessons Job learns are repeated throughout the Bible. King Solomon writes “Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come? No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death” (Ecclesiastes 8:7-8) He laments “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” yet like Job he concludes “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (11:8, 13-14).

[…]

The prophet Jeremiah writes “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (Lamentations 3:19-24)  King David writes: “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Christians believe that the cycle of death and resurrection found throughout the Bible was embodied in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. In that moment nearly two thousand years ago, the entire universe was “surprised by joy” as C.S. Lewis puts it: overcoming death with life, conquering night with day. It is this hope then that I remember when the days are their darkest. The morning will come. We do not know when, but we wait, pray, hope.

This is not the false dawn of evil men, but a dawn of truth, mercy, justice. And above all love. For

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… (I John 4:18)

And

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King, Jr, from “Loving Your Enemies,” in Strength to Love

To read the complete version of my three columns I refer to, see

“Weeping at Night, Waiting for Light” March 23 2013

“Where the worm eats, a grain grows: Kofi Awoonor, Benisheik, Baghdad, Nairobi, and Peshawar” 28 September 2013

“Murdered Sleep” 5 October 2013

Let me end with Kofi Awoonor’s poems, one from early in his career “The Journey Beyond” and the other one of his final poems “Across a New Dawn,”  both of which refer to the boatman Kutsiami of Ewe myth, who paddles the dead to the other side of the river. As I wrote after I heard of Awoonor’s death:

Terrorists thought they killed him. They didn’t know they were just bringing the boatman to ferry him home.

The Poetry Foundation Ghana makes his early poem “The Journey Beyond” available.

The Journey Beyond

The bowling cry through door posts
carrying boiling pots
ready for the feasters.

Kutsiami the benevolent boatman;
When I come to the river shore
please ferry me across
I do not have on my cloth-end
the price of your stewardship.

The Wall Street Journal published one of his final poems “Across a New Dawn” as a tribute after he was killed: 

ACROSS A NEW DAWN

Sometimes, we read the

lines in the green leaf

run our fingers over the

smooth of the precious wood

from our ancient trees;

Sometimes, even the sunset

puzzles, as we look

for the lines that propel the clouds,

the colour scheme

with the multiple designs

that the first artist put together

There is dancing in the streets again

the laughter of children rings

through the house

On the seaside, the ruins recent

from the latest storms

remind of ancestral wealth

pillaged purloined pawned

by an unthinking grandfather

who lived the life of a lord

and drove coming generations to

despair and ruin

*

But who says our time is up

that the box maker and the digger

are in conference

or that the preachers have aired their robes

and the choir and the drummers

are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats

a grain grows.

the consultant deities

have measured the time

with long winded

arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes

to the door with his own

inimitable calling card

shall find a homestead

resurrected with laughter and dance

and the festival of the meat

of the young lamb and the red porridge

of the new corn

*

We are the celebrants

whose fields were

overrun by rogues

and other bad men who

interrupted our dance

with obscene songs and bad gestures

Someone said an ailing fish

swam up our lagoon

seeking a place to lay its load

in consonance with the Original Plan

Master, if you can be the oarsman

for our boat

please do it, do it.

I asked you before

once upon a shore

at home, where the

seafront has narrowed

to the brief space of childhood

We welcome the travelers

come home on the new boat

fresh from the upright tree

From “Promises of Hope: New and Selected Poems,” selected by Kofi Anyidoho, University of Nebraska Press and the African Poetry Book Fund, 2014

Allah ya jikan Hausa film actress Maryam Umar Aliyu

FIM Magazine Cover featuring Maryam Umar Aliyu

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihirraji’un.

I’m always reluctant to post news like this. It’s bad news, and I don’t like to bear it. The Hausa film star, Maryam Umar Aliyu, who retired from acting  after she married actor and musician Misbahu M. Ahmed in December 2009, died yesterday in Kano. This is one in a long string of Kannywood deaths in the last few years, including actress Hauwa Ali Dodo (Biba Problem) in January 2010,  Safiya Ahmed and director/actor Zilkiflu Mohammed in February 2010, actress Amina Garba (Mama Dumba) in November 2010, and just last month Baballe Costume, a film costumier.

I did not know Maryam well, but I had met her on enough occasions to be completely shocked when I first found out on facebook yesterday of her death. I first met her in 2006, and the film I first remember her in is Dan Zaki. The most recent film of hers that sticks out in my mind is Sai Na Dawo. The image of her that stays with me was sometime in 2008, she came into Golden Goose Studio studio wearing long dangly earrings and a beautiful outfit–a mixture of glamour and good natured sweetness. She sat on the floor with the rest of us, laughing and talking.

According to the Leadership article I will post below, she died yesterday from lingering complications of childbirth three months ago. She was still very young. Allah ya jikanta, ya rahama mata kuma allah ya sa Aljanna makoma ita. Allah ya ba mu hakuri.

If any readers would like to leave comments about memories they have of her or of their favourite films that Maryam featured in, I will consider including comments left by tonight (my deadline) in my column published on Saturday in the Weekly Trust.I will update this post as other news comes along, but to begin with I’ll post the short Leadership article by Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz that came out today. To read on the Leadership website, click here:

Ex-Hausa Film Star, Maryam ‘Kumurci’, Dies

WEDNESDAY, 13 APRIL 2011 11:14 ABDULAZIZ ABDULAZIZ, KANO

A prominent ex-Hausa film actress, Maryam Umar Aliyu (aka Maryam Kumurci), has died. The actress died yesterday afternoon in Kano after a protected illness.Until her death, She was the wife of renown playback singer, Musbahu M Ahmed.

LEADERSHIP also gathered that she died at a private hospital in Kano where she had been battling with complications arising from childbirth. She was said to have delivered of a stillborn baby three months ago.

Burial rites for the deceased was conducted at her family’s residence located at Gwammaja quarters. Just as she was later  buried according to Islamic rites at Kofar Mazugal cemetery.

The late Maryam began her filmmaking career in early 2000s and rose to stardom by 2005. She featured in several Hausa home videos including Khudsiyya and Jani.

She later got married to an actor, Sha’aibu Lawal (alias Kumurci), following the death of his bride, Balaraba Mohammed. Maryam’s relationship with the actor earned her the same sobriquet  as him; kumurci.

UPDATE 16 April 2011

Here is my column for the week, in tribute to Maryam Umar Aliyu. It can be read on the Weekly Trust site, here or in its original format as published in the Weekly Trust by clicking on the photo below:

Honouring Kannywood: In Memory of Maryam Umar Aliyu

Saturday, 16 April 2011 00:00 Carmen McCain.

Kannywood received yet another blow this week when former actress Maryam Umar Aliyu died, Tuesday, April 12, after a lingering illness following a still-birth. The stylish, light-skinned actress, who was of Nigerien origin but grew up in Katsina, began acting in the early 2000s, appearing in dozens of films including Labarin ZuciyaGiwar Mata, Dan Zaki, Makauniyar Yarinya, Khudsiyya, Jani, and Sai na Dawo, among many others. She also produced one film Majiya. When a brief marriage to actor Shu’aibu Kumurci ended, she returned to acting, but retired again in December 2009 to marry actor and singer Misbahu M. Ahmad. Maryam’s death comes after a long string of losses to the Hausa film industry over the past year and a half: actresses Hauwa Ali Dodo, Safiya Ahmed, and Amina Garba, Director and actor Zilkiflu Mohammad, and producer Hamza Muhammad Danzaki all died in 2010. Last month, a costumier called Baballe Costume also died.

A fan, Khadijah Sulaiman, wrote on Facebook, that she “had never seen a film” of Maryam’s that “wasn’t good.” She most remembered her for the 2006 film Dan Zaki. Likewise, my first memory of seeing Maryam Umar Aliyu was in the Sani Danja film, Dan Zaki, with its echoes of oral literature, where she plays the role of a woman so jealous that she has a sorcerer transform the man she loves into a bird and make his wife go mad. The film had just come out when I arrived in Kano to begin my research. Maryam came to the house where I was staying to visit my hostess, and I remember thinking her quite the opposite of the character she had played in the film. She was sweet and kind and laughed a lot. I remember how, later, after my return to Kano in 2008, she came into Golden Goose Studio one day, a mixture of glamour and cheerfulness, with her dangly earrings, fashionable dress and unforgettable smile. She sat on the floor of the studio, ate kosai and fried potatoes, and chatted with everyone there.

Her laughter, patience, and kindness are what other people in the industry I spoke to remember of her as well. Aminu Sheriff (Momoh) wrote on my blog that “She was very kind and jovial person[…] May her soul rest in peace, amin.” Over the phone (any mistakes in translation from Hausa to English are mine) actress Fati Bararoji told me that Maryam was a very patient and kind person, who loved the people around her. She didn’t fight with anyone, Fati said. She’d put up with a lot. When she accepted a role in a film, she wouldn’t haggle over money but would just take what she was given. Fati remembered, in particular, Maryam’s patience and cheerfulness over a seven-day shoot in Abuja which she had been on with her, shortly before Maryam’s marriage in 2009.

Sakna Gadaz Abdullahi repeated much of what Fati had told me. “Her death is a big loss to the industry and to her family.  The day I heard of her death, I couldn’t do anything else. I was so shocked. Maryam had become like my sister. Everyone who knew her in the industry knew that she was a good and loyal friend. She wasn’t materialistic.”

Sadiyya Mohammad (Gyale) wrote me that Maryam was very nice, patient and quiet. “I really loved Maryam.” Zainab Idris simply said that she had always gotten along well with Maryam. “Her death has really affected us. But we know that God loves her even more than us, and we too are on the road to the Hereafter whether today or any other time.”

Maryam’s death comes at a time when I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between the Hausa film industry, the wider Nollywood industry, and the role of film in Africa as a whole. In 1998, the Malian filmmaker Abdurrahmane Sissako made a film, La Vie Sur Terre/Life on Earth, which portrays a village where the news of the world comes in through international radio broadcasts, but where no information can escape. The villagers know about the world, yet the world does not know about them. The village post office can receive telephone calls but cannot call out.

Although the Hausa-speaking world is certainly no village and has access to phones, internet, radio, and other media (including a gigantic film industry which could be its gateway to the world), there is a metaphoric parallel here. Kannywood knows about Hollywood, Bollywood, and the larger Nigerian film industry of Nollywood, but they know very little about Kannywood.  Despite Maryam Umar Aliyu’s prolific acting career, when I went online to try to find photos of her to put on my blog, I didn’t find more than three or four. It always surprises me how little you find online about Kannywood stars, whose faces, blazoned on stickers, are plastered on thousands of buses, motorcycles, and taxis all over Northern Nigeria, Niger, and surrounding countries.

Hausa is spoken by over fifty million people in Africa. The Hausa film industry is, according to the most recent National Film and Video Censor’s Board statistics, creeping to nearly thirty percent of the Nigerian film industry. Beyond death, the figures and faces of these actors and actresses will keep running and clapping, speaking and laughing, singing and dancing through our lives for as long as the plastic of the VCDs last and the television channels continue to broadcast them into our homes. They are known by millions yet strangely unknown beyond a barrier of language and class, loved by those who buy stickers and films and yet often disrespected by those with the power to write about them on an international stage.

The imbalances in what the world knows about Hausa film and society have their roots in colonialism, yes, but also tend to be continued by the attitudes of an elite who keep their television stations tuned to CNN and BBC. Despite the hundreds of singing and dancing sequences uploaded to YouTube (rarely labeled with names of composer or performer), the occasional Facebook fan page, the old FIM Magazine pages or the commendable Kannywood online fan community, the lack of information about the Hausa film industry online is a sign that it is not yet appreciated by a northern elite who have the most access to the internet. And a lack of financial and moral support from an elite means it is much more difficult for the industry to break into the international film arena, as Yoruba films are beginning to do. I often hear educated members of a Northern Nigerian elite talking about how embarrassed they are by Hausa films, and yet it was these very Hausa films (and also the novels) that attracted me to learn Hausa. I am an American here in Kano because of film. I am here because I saw Ahmed S. Nuhu and Hauwa Ali Dodo and Zilkiflu Mohammed and Maryam Umar Aliyu in stories that captivated me and made me want to let the world know about them.

I am sad that I wrote of Maryam only after she died. I should have written about her while she was alive. Every time I write a tribute to an entertainer or artist gone before their time, I feel this way. Why didn’t I write more? Why don’t we all write more, in Hausa first and then English, about the young talents who surround us, filling our radios with songs, our television screens with dramas, and our bookshelves with novels, not imported but homegrown? Let’s honour Maryam by honouring, respecting and supporting her colleagues, those hard working, cheerful, and kind members of the Hausa film industry who, insha Allah, will live and work and grow as artists for years to come. Only when we respect our entertainers, will they be able to build an industry that will make us proud.

UPDATE 25 April 2011:

Other memories of Maryam Umar Aliyu sent to me:

From Auwal Danlarabawa

ina mai mika ta’aziyya ta ga rasuwar maryam umar Allah ya gafarta mata ameen, akwai wani jarumta da tayi a lokacin da muke aikin film din kanfani a lokacin da doki ya gudu da ita amma bata ji tsoro ba ta zauna daram har diokin ya kare gudunsa ya tsaya wanda ba kowacce jaruma ce zatayi hakan ba, shine babban abinda na ke tunawa a mu’amalarmu da maryam Allah ya gafarta mata mu kuma in tamau tazo Allah yasa mu cika da imani

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,

Director Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik), who died 18 February 2010,

Actress Safiya Ahmed, who died on 26 February 2010,

Actress Amina Garba, who died on 21 November 2010,

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

Director Muhammadu Balarabe Sango, who died on 1 December 2012

Allah Ya Jikan Jarumar Kannywood, Hajiya Amina Garba

Inna Lillahi Wa’inna Ilaihir Raji’un.

Hajiya Amina Garba

I signed onto Facebook tonight to the upsetting news of the passing away yesterday (21 November 201o, Sunday) of Hajiya Amina Garba, one of the most recognizable faces in Kannywood. Hajiya Amina has played hundreds of roles over the years, most often as a mother. She died three weeks after her wedding, after a short illness. Allah ya jikanta. Allah ya sa ta huta. Allah ya ba mu hakuri.

I do not have any of the details yet, but will post them as they become available. Kannywood Online has also posted a brief line on her death.

A photo uploaded to Facebook by Ibrahim Alfa Ahmad of VOA

[UPDATE 9:06pm. For more background on Hajiya Amina’s life and career, see a recent interview published by People’s Daily Online on November 6, 2010, an interview on page 22 of the October 2004 Cross-Border Diaries, and also a 2007 interview in French with Afriquechos Magazine. Hajiya Amina, also known as Mama Dumba, first became involved in acting, as a young widow, in the early 1980s in the CTV television drama “Farin Wata.” She also worked as a nurse.]

[Update 23 November 2010, Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz of Leadership has more details in his piece: “Ace Hausa Actress, Amina Garba, Dies at 52”]

If any of those of you who worked with her or knew her would like to share memories or stories about her for inclusion in my column this week, please share in the comments section or send me an email at carmenmccain [at] yahoo.com.

UPDATE 24 December 2010

Copied below is the article I published in honour of Hajiya Amina Garba on 27 November 2010, the week following her death. As I was out of the country at the time, I had to rely on email and facebook to gather tributes and memories. Unfortunately, that ended up meaning I had a pretty serious gender imbalance in what was published, but I still thought the memories shared by these directors, producers, actors, and musicians were quite poignant. Beneath the article, I have copied the full original messages in Hausa that were sent to me by Kannywood stakeholders in response to my call for written memories about Hajiya Amina.  I have also included a couple of tributes from people who responded after my submission deadline and I wasn’t able to include in the publication. To read the article, just click on this link to the soft version on the Weekly Trust site or on the photo, and it will redirect you to a large readable version hosted on my flickr site.

Abba El Mustapha, Producer, Actor: salam, innalillahi wa inna ilaihirrajiun. haj. amina has passed away but her memories will never fade. a woman of honest, integrity, charismatic n always down 2 all. a mother to all that we shall always cherish her kind gesture n modesty. may her gentle soul rest in perfect peace.

Ali Nuhu, Director, Producer, Actor: Zan fara da cewa Allah ya jikanta ya gafarce ta. Ta kasance Uwa ga dukkanmu don kullum tana cikin bada shawara ta gari garemu. Allah ya bamu hakuri da danganar rashin ta.

Auwal Muhammed Danlarabawa, Producer/Director: Amina garba dai ni a sani na da ita gaskiya tana da kirki matuka don nayi aikin fina finai na da ita kamar su LIKAI, DA BARIMA DA TSUMIN DAGE KAFFARA da sauransu, Sannan a mu’amalar mu da ita a harkar film gaskiya naji dadi don bata karya alkawari a duk aikin da muka yi da ita, Sannan kuma Amina Garba tana da kokari wajen cewar anyi abin da ya kawo ta wajen aikin film, Sannan bata son tashin hankali, Sannan tana da son mutane sosai a duk lokacin da aka hadu ada ita don masoya ko masu kallaon fina finanta, Sannan abin da bazan manta dashi ba shine lokacin da matata taje wajen awon ciki a asibitin da take aiki ta amshe ta hannu biyu biyu cikin nishadi,na biyu kuma ranar bithday din yar gidan mansura isah da akayi nan ma ta rike matata har aka tashi suna ta hira da ita har sukayi hotuna ,wannan kadan daga cikin abinda nasani kenan akan rayuwar Amina Garba Allah yaji kanta ameen

Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, Writer, Producer: Allah ya jikan ta kuma ya gafarta mata amin. Hajiya Amina mutuniyar kirki ce, kuma mai so jama’a, kuma mai son yara ce, kuma tana da alheri. Allah ya jikan ta. Wannan shine abin da zan iya gaya miki akan wannan mata

Lawal Kaura, Director, Producer, Actor:  Abin da na sani a halayen ta ni a kashin kaina sune, mama dumba mace ce mai hakuri da kamun kai da kuma kawaici, dan zai wahala ka ji wasu munanan kalmomi sun futo daga bakin ta, bugu da kari kuma ta dauki kanta tamkar uwar kowa a industry idan taga mutun yana aikata ba daidai ba ita sai ta kira shi tai masa fada. Haka yasa wallahi idan location da ita za kaga ya zama mai tsabta, dan han na taba ji wani shakiyi yana cewa shi yana kunyar idon mama dumba dan haka ko maganar banza baya iyawa. Allah ya gafarta mata ya jikan ta ya kuma kyautata tamu in tazo.

Masaud Kanoriders, hiphop artist: GASKIYA AMINA GARBA MACE CE MAI KAMAR MAZA,MUTUNCI,ALKHAIRI,SANIN DARAJAR MUTANE,SANIN YA KAMATA DA SANIN DARAJAR MUTANE A RAYUWATA AMINA GARBA TAYI MIN ABUBAWA NA MUTUNCI WANDA BAZAN IYA NA BAYYANA SU BA SAI DAI KAWAI NA FADI KADAI KAFI RASUWAR TA AKWAI LOKACIN DA MUNJE LOCATION NA FIM DIN PRODUCER NA MAI SUNA KARO DA KARO AKA KAWO ABINCI SAI YA KARE NI BAN SAMU WALLAHI NATA TA DAUKA TA BANI KUMA BAZAN MANTA BA MUNYI WANI FIM NA MUTANEN TOGO DA MUKA SAKATA TAYI MANA WASU SCENE ANAN MA AMINA GARBA BATA ANSHI KUDIN MU SABODA TAGA CEWA A LOKACIN MUNA CIKIN MATSALAN KUDI HAR MA TA KAIMU GIDAN MUKA KARASA WASU SCENE A CAN SAKAMAKON RASHIN LOKACIN ABU NA KARSHE DA ZAN CE SHI ALLAH UBANGIJI YA GAFARTA MATA MUKUMA IDAN TAMU TAZO ALLAH YASA MU CIKI DA KYAU DA IMANI (AMEEN ) DAGA MASUD KANORAIDERS

Muhammad B Sango II, director: Talatu,Amina Garba ta fara harkar fim tun daga gidan Talabijin inda ta ke yin wasan kwaikwayo kuma a nan ne aka fara saninta.Ta bayar da gudummawa sosai wajen cin nasarar wasan kwaikwayo a talabijin domin a lokacin sune ‘yammata. A lokacin da aka fara Fina-finan Hausa a kaset kuwa,su ne iyaye mata kuma a nan mata yi fice sosai musamman a wajen fitowa a matsayin matar Attajiri ko ita kanta Attajira. Ta kan fito kuma a matsayin talaka, amma duk rawar (role) da ta taka yana dacewa da ita sosai saboda kwarewarta. Babban abin kirkin da ta kan yiwa masu shirya fim(Furodusa) shi ne ta kan bayar da gidanta na Kofar Kabuga domin lokeshin (location) domin saukaka musu kuma ta bayar da kayan sawarta (costumes) a yi amfani da su. Kuma ya na cikin tarihi (on record) cewar tana daya daga cikin mata manya wadanda su ke ajiye ‘yam mata ‘yan fim a gidajensu su na kula da su kuma ta hannunta ta aurar da fitacciyar jarumar fim din (Ki yarda da ni) Fati wacce  har yanzu ta na gidan mijinta, Alhamdu lillahi. Amina ta na da son jama’a da barkwanci a gida ko a lokeshan shi ya sa ta ke da tagomashi a tsakanin jama’a a waje da cikin industry. Kadan kenan daga abin da zan iya fada miki Talatu. Na gode.

Nasiru Bappah Muhammad, Director: Nagode da sakon ta’aziya, kuma kin kyau da za ki yi tribute to Amina Garba. Ni mun yi aiki da ita sosai amma abin da zan iya fada miki shine tana da wasa da dariya da jama’a, kuma tana da kyauta. Komai ta saya on location, she shared with other people. She had so much self respect, and didn’t like indiscipline, that’s why she commanded so much respect within and even without the industry.

Shaban Ty, Producer, Actor: Nasanta tare da mahaifiyata tun kafin na shigo hausa fim industry,tanada farin jini wurin yanwasa,hakuri da sanin yakamata.bazan manta shooting dina na fimdin matar manya ba, inda tazo location ta biya kudin drop na mota mukayi shooting muka gama tace shaba ka rike kudinka kai karamin producer ne.ALLAH YAJI KANTA DA RAHAMASA.

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,

Director Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik), who died 18 February 2010,

Actress Safiya Ahmed, who died on 26 February 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

Allah ya jikan Hauwa Ali Dodo…

 

The late Hausa Actress Hauwa Ali Dodo “Biba Problem,” courtesy of Ibrahim Sheme at Bahaushe Mai Ban Haushi

Forgive me for not posting this story earlier. I have not been well, and to be honest, I found this story so depressing, I couldn’t bear to post it earlier–also part of the reason I didn’t post last April about the death of Jamila Haruna, who I had seen and asked for an interview only weeks earlier.

Last week on New Years Day, I was with my friend Hausa novelist and poet Sa’adatu Baba as she was preparing for her wedding party. Ibrahim Sheme, editor of Leadership newspaper and publisher of Fim Magazine, called to congratulate her, but when she passed the phone to me so that I could greet him, he told me some more sobering news. Hausa film star Hauwa Ali Dodo, also known as Biba Problem after the character she played in one of her earliest films Ki Yarda da Ni (a film adaptation of the popular novel of the same name by Bilkisu Funtua) had been killed in a road accident a few hours before on the road from Jos to Kaduna, one of the latest in a series of Hausa film industry deaths on Nigerian roads.

Hauwa Ali Dodo was an actress with one of the longest acting careers in Kannywood. In a 14 March 2008 Nigerianfilms.com article, “Top 10 Northern Actresses,” posted on ModernGhana.com (likely lifted from another location that I could not find with a google search. Modern Ghana News and Nigerianfilms.com regularly lift articles from other sites without citation, as I have been told by other disgruntled journalists and discovered personally when they lifted my interview with Sani Muazu from this blog–in my case they eventually DID cite me when I sent the administrators enough complaints!), she is described as one of the top ten actresses in Kannywood and as:

the longest surviving actress in the hausa movie industry after becoming popular with the villain role she played in KI YARDA DA NI. She is gifted with spontanous acting skills and has to her credit three hits out of the highest selling movies in the hausa movie scene. These hits include KIYARDA DA NI, SANGAYA and DASKIN DA RIDI.

Ruqayyah Yusuf Aliyu gives a more extensive biography, in her personal remembrance of the actress: “Biba Problem: Sunset for Kannywood’s Star” in Sunday Trust 3 January 2009.

Born some 35 years ago, the late Hauwa was the longest serving actress in the industry. Since her debut in the film, Ki Yarda Dani, she never looked back. She was gifted with spontaneous acting skills, and had to her credit a number of hits in top selling Hausa films. These hits include Kiyarda Da Ni, Sangaya, Daskin Da Ridi, Buri, Gaskya Dokin Karfe and Na Gari to mention a few. Her spectacular and extra ordinary acting skills won her a number of awards while she was a nominee for both local and international awards on several occasions.

Among her awards were best actress in the Yahoo, Majalisar Finanfinai awards in 2002 and 2005, Yahoo Group Movie Award in 2007, Stars in the Movie Award (SIMA) for Best Actress in 2008, among others.

Here are links to a few other articles about the loss of Hauwa Ali Dodo.

Kannywood news online article posted on January 1. Kannywood News Online also has an interview with Kannywood superstar Ali Nuhu

An anecdotal Weekend Triumph article “Biba Problem is Dead” published on 2 January.

A short article from Vanguard “Hausa Film Star Dies in Road Accident” published on 2 January

An article from the Saturday Tribune on 2 January that combines the story of her death and another unrelated accident related death in “New Year Tragedy: Hausa Movie Star, Teenager die in Car Accidents.”

A People’s Daily Online piece, “Kannywood/Nollywood actors, friends, family mourn Hauwa Ali Dodo,” with short statements about Hauwa from family and friends.

The death of the Hausa film actress is the latest in series of high profile Kannywood deaths on the road. As work in Hausa films involves much travel (as well as publicity-related and personal travel–Hauwa Ali Dodo was coming back from attending a polo match in Jos. Veteran actress Jamila Haruna, one of the most recognizeable “mother” actors in Hausa films, was killed in April 2009 on the Abuja-Kaduna road, coming back from the PDP national convention), the  “hungry road” Wole Soyinka has so often written about has claimed some of the most talented and well-known members of Kannywood. The death of Hauwa Ali Dodo on New Years Day in particular brings back sad memories of the death of Kannywood leading man Ahmad S. Nuhu on the Kano-Azare road three years ago on New Years Day 2007. In June of last year,  Newspage Weekly published a feature,  “How Top Stars Perish on Nigerian Roads” listing at least 19 Kannywood road fatalities.

1. Balaraba Mohammed
2. Ahmed S. Nuhu
3. Hajiya Jamila Haruna
4. Hussaina Gombe (Tsigai)
5. Shuaibu Dan Wanzam
6. Malam Kasim
7. Nura Mohammed
8. Ali Bala
9. Maijidda Mohammed
10. Hamza Jos
11. Tijjani Ibrahim
12. Umar Katakore
13. Shuaibu Kulu
14. Baffa Yautai
15. Hajiya Hassana
16. Aisha Kaduna (Shamsiyya)
17. Rabiu Maji Magani
18. Hajiya Karima
19. Kabiru Kabuya

The facebook status of a one of my friends, a Kannywood actor, shortly after the news of Hauwa’s death broke read “Allah ya jikanmu.” “May God forgive us.” It is the phrase, more commonly “Allah ya jikansa” or “Allah ya jikanta” (May God forgive him/May God forgive her) used when someone dies.  For those in Kannywood and all of us travelling so often on these hungry roads, death lurks close by.

“Allah ya jikanmu duka”

UPDATE

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

Director Zilkiflu Muhammed (Zik), who died 18 February 2010,

Actress Safiya Ahmed, who died on 26 February 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