(this didn't post yesterday for some reason)
I resisted “hau”-ing an acaba (small Chinese made motorcycles used for public transport) until yesterday, but, it’s just too difficult and too expensive to get around otherwise. I don’t have the money to always be chartering taxis. And really, there are a whole lot of back roads in Kano, so I have not yet felt that I have been in mortal danger. It’s a liberating feeling to just climb on one and go where I want to go.
I’m here at a internet café in the same building as the Centre for Hausa cultural studies. I had intended to write something for my blog before I signed on, but my key didn’t work at the office, so I had to come to the internet café before I had written anything. So, this won’t be quite as eloquent and well-thought-out as it would have been otherwise.
My time here continues to exceed expectations. Yesterday I spent the day at the censorship board and watched two films with them (Hamshaki and Amincin So)—along with the director or producer of the films. The censors were amiable good natured men (and one kindly looking woman), who chuckled through the films and passed them with no comment. Bayan haka, I went to a series of five 15 minute short films, Reel Dialogues who had been chosen for support out of two-hundred entries, being shown at the British Council. I’m slightly uncomfortable with the kind of language used at the British Council: these are grants used to promote filmmaking in “developing” countries, and there are some kind of training seminars that go on. My interest in Hausa popular literature and film, I realize, has made me very interested at what is happening on the grass roots level—what do people choose to watch and why? What is the genre that grows out of popular tradition and is not necessarily determined by “outside” training? (Ie. Ado Ahmad did not go to a Western-style school, but he is very much an intellectual—his works, therefore, are not constrained by a “European” idea of a novel but are something else altogether.) That being my little caveat, the Reel Dialogues event has provided a fantastic forum and funding for filmmakers who want to experiment with non-market driven films, and of course, you can not divorce any cultural production from the “outside”. I don’t want to be so concerned by the language that I throw out the substance of what has been done: ie. five very, very impressive films (which although more “arty” and “cosmopolitan” (?) perhaps than the feature-length films still have a certain Hausa structure to them, not determined by international standards, although I can certainly see these being entered in international film festivals.)
I had met one of the directors Mustapha Adamu Indubawa at the Association of Nigerian Authors, Hausa Section, last Sunday, and he had invited me to come. So, I ended up sitting with him on the front row. The films were really fantastic: Dara directed by Sulaiman Surajo; Joker directed by Salisu Ahmad Koki; Rashin Sani directed by Grace Sokyes (from Jos); Sorrowful Joy (that’s the translation of the Hausa title I forgot to write down) directed by Mustapha Adamu Indubawa; and Ta Leko directed by Rufai Bawa (also from Jos), which was a beautiful star-crossed love story about a girl and a crippled man. It was structured as a folktale (with a Gata nan gata nan ku at the beginning and a kurunkus at the end). The others were also quite excellent, and I’d say my next favourite was Sorrowful Joy, about a girl who was forced to go hawking by her mother and subsequently became pregnant, followed closely by the hilarious Rashin Sani, about a man with two jealous ignorant wives, and one educated wife (mai kirki). Most of the actors were from the mainstream market, but the stories told in the short films were in the words of Ian Masters “no escapist fantasy stories but ones that went to the heart of society.” I would argue that the popular films often also go to the “heart of society” using fantasy as a medium, and that these five films, while marked by a certain realism that you don’t necessarily see as often in the feature length films, also utilized fantasy in the denouments.
After the films, I went to Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s house. She’s one of the founding members of the Raina Kama writers group that Ado Ahmad was also a part of, and has been anthologized in the Anthology of Popular African Literature and was the subject of Novian Whitsitt’s PhD dissertation. She was quite nice. I wish I had read more than one of her novels: that is my homework for the next few weeks because I do mention Whitsitt’s reading of her novel in one of my papers.
I’ve been passing out electronic copies of some of these articles, which the authors had not yet seen. Before I leave, I’m also planning to give away my Anthology of Popular African Literature, which features a translation of part of one of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu’s novels and photos of Ado Ahmad’s In da So da Kauna and the translation The Soul of My Heart, which we used in the Hausa Verbal Arts in Translation class I TAed for last semester. Neither Ado Ahmad nor Balaraba Ramat Yakubu had seen the anthology, which is a bit of a shame. I also, with fear and trembling, gave Professor Abdalla Adamu, the director of the Centre Ahmad Alkanawy, Dr. Yusuf Adamu, and Ado Ahmad copies of the papers I have written on Hausa literature so far. I am terrified of what they will say, because I can see all the holes of what I don’t know, and BS I put in. But, it’s necessary. I can’t grow if I don’t get constructive criticism from the “real” experts, ie. people living here. If they tear it apart, so be it. Better now than later.
And finally an excerpt from my journal last night:
“In the living room with Abdullahi, Abba, and one other teenage boy watching a delightful campily-dubbed Chinese kung fu movie. The 1970s American accents are fabulous.”