Katsina, Umaru Danjuma. Kulb’a Na B’arna. Zaria: NNPC, 1979.
The title of this play is part of a proverb—and it is something about a lizard. I need to find the exact translation. A girl who is sent to a Western-style school against the better judgement of her uncle and her fiancé ends up as prey to a rich alhaji. She breaks up with her fiancé, thinking the alhaji will marry her. But after he impregnates her, he abandons her, and she ends up as a prostitute. (Eventually one of the boyfriends her uncle had driven away takes her home and marries her.) In many works by men there is a strong sense that women are “spoiled” when they are sent to a makarantar boko—Western style education. Women writers and filmmakers often challenge these preconceptions.
Yakubu, Balaraba Ramat. Alhaki Kuykuyo Ne… Kano: Raina Kama (or Gaskiya Corporation), 1990.
Like many Hausa novels, the title is part of a proverb: “crime is like a dog”… (it follows it’s owner). When the wealthy trader Alhaji Abdu marries an “old prostitute,” as a second wife, his family goes through a crisis. After a fight between the uwargida and her children and the new wife, Alhaji Abdu kicks his first wife and her ten children out of his house, denies them any kind of support, and refuses to even recognize any of them in chance meetings on the street or when his eldest daughter gets married. What was initially a disaster for the abandoned wife Rabi becomes a liberating self-sufficiency. Supporting her children through cooking and selling food, she is able to put her eldest son through university and see the marriage of her eldest daughter to a rich alhaji. The book follows the story of Rabi, as she makes a life apart from marriage, and her daughter Saudatu, as she enters into marriage and the decent Alhaji Abubakar’s life as a third wife. Alhaji Abubakar seems to have had a hard time of it with his first two wives, who are disrespectful and quarrelsome, and he gets rid of the first one right before he marries Saudatu and gets rid of the second one shortly after his marriage to Saudatu. In the end Rabi’s ex-husband, Alhaji Abdu, gets his just reward when his shop burns down in a market fire, his car is stolen, and he finds his second wife (the old prostitute) in bed with the repairman. He begs Rabi to come back, but she refuses, until she is (seemingly) forced back by her male relatives.
This is probably the most complex and ambiguous novel I’ve read thus far this summer. I was not sure whether Alhaji Abubakar was supposed to be a sympathetic character or not—and I think that’s probably part of Yakubu’s intent in reflecting society. He’s a decent fellow, who just wants some peace and quiet, which he eventually finds with his gentle and good third wife, but in throwing out his first two wives, isn’t he behaving similarly to Alhaji Abdu? Also, he is one of the ones that forces Rabi back into a loveless marriage with Alhaji Abdu, who has become a madman. (I’ve got to reread the ending, to make sure my interpretation is grounded.)
[Update 22 October 2012: Alhaki Kuykuyo Ne is now available translated into English as a Kindle book, for only $4.99. Check it out!
Gidan Dabino, Ado Ahmad. Duniya Sai Sannu. Kano: Gidan Dabino Publishers, 1997.
I’m not sure if I can provide a good translation for the title. It’s something like “Take the world a little bit a time”
Half of the novel is told in the first person voice as Ruk’ayya recounts to a sympathetic friend her misadventures in her first marriage. As a good and dutiful daughter, she marries one of her fathers followers (although she had preferred one of her other suitors), and helps him (through setbacks and disasters) build up his small scale business to a large operation. Unfortunately, she has no children, and one day, without consulting her or even telling her, her husband Ja’afaru marries another wife. Though initially shocked and upset to find another woman in the house, she patiently takes it in stride and helps her young co-wife through childbirth and other difficulties. Ja’afaru marries another two wives, and the other women disrespectfully taunt Ruk’ayya about her barrenness. When Ruk’ayya challenges her husband on some unethical business practices and when one of her co-wives picks a fight with her, Ja’afaru divorces her for no good reason. The first person narration ends with Ruk’ayya in her parents house (her father is still sympathetic to her ex-husband), telling her story to a friend. Now in third person narration, her friends hooks her up with her good and patient eldest brother who had recently been prevailed upon by his relatives to divorce his harpiesh wife. Ruk’ayya marries him and finds a happiness she had never experienced in her former marriage. She even gives birth to a baby girl, beloved of both parents. One day, she meets up with one of her former co-wives, with whom she had gotten along with, and the woman tells her about the downfall of her former husband, who ended up marrying again and eventually divorcing all of them after losing his fortune.
While Ado Ahmad’s novels are not as socially complex or ambiguous as Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s novels, I am very interested in his use of structure and voice. The four novels of his that I’ve read so far experiment with first and third person narration as well as the incorporation of songs, and the dialogue is playful and a delight to read. For some strange reason, his writing style reminds me of one of my girlhood favourites’s Lucy Maud Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, etc.)—something about the playful social “realism” that is incorporated into the “unrealistic” structure of a romance.
Gidan Dabino, Ado Ahmad. Kaico! Kano: Gidan Dabino Publishers, 1996.
Kaico! Means something like “alas!”
Told in the first person. When Baba’s (nicknamed this because he is named after his father) friend Kabiru confesses that he is in love with Baba’s little sister Bilkisu, Baba helps him talk to Bilkisu and their parents. As they begin to plan for Kabiru and Bilkisu’s wedding, his elder sister advises Baba that the family has a girl in mind for him, as well. Hindatu has always just been his little sister’s friend, with whom he has a joking relationship, until he is pointed towards her as a potential spouse. He willingly enters into an engagement with her and the two are soon passionately in love. The double wedding date (plus the Cocktail party, tea party, luncheon, and dinner) is set, the engagement photos are taken, the announcement is made on television and the radio, the calendars and wedding invitations are printed when disaster strikes. Three days before the wedding, Baba’s father is killed in a car accident on the way to another wedding. Grief-stricken, the family postpones the weddings for another three months. But with time, they begin to plan the festivities again, retake the engagement photos, reprint the calendars etc. etc., until again only a few days before the wedding, Hindatu is taken ill and after the lovers weep-together in the hospital, she dies. Baba weeps at her graveside and wants to die. Eventually, the wedding date for Kabiru and Bilkisu is set, but Baba refuses to find another girl. He knows he will eventually marry to fulfill his promise to Hindatu to name his eldest daughter after her, but it will be a long time before he can think of marrying another woman.
Three songs are incorporated into the novel, and of most interest to me is that Ado Ahmad writes his real-life friend, the song-writer Sani Yusuf Ayagi into the novel, as a one of Baba’s friends, who writes a song both for his upcoming wedding and for Hindatu after she dies. This permeation of the “real” with the “fictional” is one of the things that obsesses me in Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel, so I intend to interview Ado about this. What was he intending, and did Sani Yusuf Ayagi actually write the songs in the novel? (I’m suspecting he did, although I know Ado writes many of his own songs as well).
Abdulwaheed, Hafsatu M.A. So Aljannar Duniya. Zaria: NNPC, 1980.
Not sure I can really translate the title. It’s something like “Love is Heaven on Earth" or "Love is the Heaven of this World."
An novel by one of the first Hausa women writers (and the mother of my hostess), which won an NNPC writing contest in 1981. I liked it so much that upon finishing it this evening (Monday), I sat down to start translating it. It is a short novel at only 54 pages, but for some reason I had a harder time understanding it than the previous novels, so my summary might not be quite correct. I intend to read back over it much more carefully—obviously, since I have started translating it.
Bodado, a Fulani girl, is determined to marry her beloved Yasir, a boy of Arab descent from Egypt. Despite the fact that he is a “stranger,” her family reluctantly agree to the marriage. As the marriage negotiations are going on, Yasir is accosted by a beautiful jinn, who asks him to marry her. When he turns her down, she promises him that she will seek her revenge on him and Bodado. Shortly after their marriage, the vengeful jinn threatens them again. After the arrival of a jealous relative of Yasir’s (who doesn’t know why he married a Fulani woman instead of her), Yasir’s mother relates the story of the family’s flight from Egypt and the curse of the jinn that followed them. Yasir must undertake an arduous quest to free their family from the curse and kill the jinn. Along with a friend, he takes reluctant leave of his mother, cousin, and pregnant wife and sets off into the daji. After a series of adventures, in which he and his friend save a princess from a kidnapper, and he finds a magical sword that allows him to kill the threatening jinn, Bodado returns to his wife and baby daughter. Unfortunately, his friend (with whom the princess had fallen in love) is killed during the journey. Likewise, when his jealous cousin accidentally drank the poisoned milk that she had prepared for Bodado, she gets her just reward. Shortly after his mother had died. So, the ending is bitter-sweet. The family is reunited and no longer are troubled by the jinn, but they miss their friends and relatives.