Friday, June 09, 2006

Na cika da murna da farin ciki

(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.”


Odoh Diego Okenyodo said...

Hi Talatu, just read this blog and I find ur predicament same as mine. I have lived here (in the Hausa-speaking North) for about 14 years and my Hausa still totters. I am a lterary journalist and I feel this is inexcusable! Pls, keep "hau"-ing achabas...It was funny seeing the medley I always have to do!

Mustapha Adamu Indabawa said...

Dear Talatu,

I just browsed through your good-looking blog, stumbled on your postings and I find it necessary to make some points clear for you and any other person that wishes to know the clear situations of things as Dr. Muhammad Tahir Adam a.k.a Baba Impossible once said; "Idan aka fadi karya sau goma sha hudu ba wanda ya karyata, to sai ta zama gaskiya."

It may interest the blog owner to know that the people of Kano did not choose to be watching the type of films that we are producing in the Hausa Film Industry; rather the films are forced on them. And the fact that there is a very loud hue and cries everywhere as to the way the films are been produced stands alone to prove my point. With all the two radio programmes dedicated to the Hausa Film Industry like 'Dandalin Finafinai' at Freedom Radio anchored by a renown Hausa producer and artist in the person of Ibrahim Mandawari and another programme anchored by a popular Hausa film Industry singer in the person of Mudassiru Kassim little or nothing has been achieved in making people accept the manner at which these films are been produced. Professor Abdalla Uba's phone-in programme with the Freedom Radio will testify to this, how people has been phoning to show their appreciation to him as to how he has been doing his best to arrest the situation (get a copy for yourself, it will rally help).

The fact that the blog owner is on a study visit make us to believe that training is a priority, at least to the blog owner (?). But one interesting contradiction is the fact that the blog owner in her prior post categorically stated that training is of little or no importance to Hausa film makers citing Ado Gidan Dabino as an intellectual without training just like in the case of Plato and other gifted philosophers. Honestly, I know little of Ado Gidan Dabino, at least I may say I know his name which I read from your post. So I will not be able to know if he is an intellectual or not. I never come across his work, needless for me to weight his intellectual aptitude.

The Reel Dialogues project did not train us to write or produce films the European way rather it is categorically stated by our humble project coordinator (ROLI MAJIYAGBE) at the premier, of which the blog owner is present, and I quote "the Reel Dialogues project aims to explore how Hausa and British media can work together to create a basis for further co-operation and understanding. It seeks ‘’to provide a training and production environment which encourages dialogue between filmmakers in Northern Nigeria and the UK, supports the development of the Hausa film industry, and produces films that express the Hausa culture accurately and creatively to a national and international audience.”

Going by the aforementioned therefore, I am free to say that the blog owner studied the premier proceedings keenly and surprisingly sacrificed the meanings derived out of the speeches and presentations made at the event, and choose to adopt what she has been fed with from those that see nothing good with the good intentions of the British Council.

It is hoped that the information supplied will benefit you and other readers concerned.

Talatu-Carmen said...


First of all, so sorry that the blog seems to have eaten your first comment, and thanks for letting me know that you posted one and for re-sending your comment. I hope we can continue the conversation we started earlier this week at a later time.

As I have said elsewhere, I very much appreciate the comments of those living here in Kano, since obviously you know much more about what you are talking about than I do. Furthermore, the original purpose of this blog was to be a scrapbook of informal observations and reflections on what I am learning while I am here; therefore, my posts, as you may have observed, often take the form of working out on paper what I am thinking about. My initial comments on the Reel Dialogues event were intended to be a subjective reaction to the event, to which I hoped to later add more informed "facts," as I interviewed people like yourself and other Reel Dialogues participants.

It is this process of thinking through something as I write that I probably should be re-thinking, as far as this blog is concerned. Not realizing how easily these blogs were to be found through google, I was initially intending a somewhat more limited audience. Now that people are reading it more in terms of being a report rather than a reaction, I definitely need to be a bit more rigorous in the way I present information. As I have stated in reponse to other comments, I am quite happy to have the feedback of people living here as it only strenghtens my own research and the blog, as readers are able to get more than my own very subjective, un-informed, and one-sided opinion.

Contrary to your claims, I actually did not recieve a proceedings and was therefore not able to carefully study it. If I could get a photocopy from you, that would be quite helpful. As you know, I was there, and I did record some of the concluding remarks, and I probably should have listened to those again before writing the post, instead of depending on the few things that jumped out at me when I was listening. My intent was certainly not to slam the British Council, and my overall comments on the Reel Dialogues were meant to be complimentary. I think it was an excellent project, and one I hope will be repeated.

As you have so rightly pointed out as a long-term student and teacher myself, I certainly have nothing against training or education. I'm sure the training you recieved at the British Council was very useful, and you are in much more of a position to comment on that than I am. What I was trying to work out in the process of writing that post were my own tensions (created by years of living in limbo between here and there) between more political knee-jerk reactions to often condescending World Bank (et al.) stipulations on "aid" to Southern countries and my own realization of the agency of countries and individuals in using that aid. If the offer is often condescending (and the quote you provide certainly is not condescending), it can also often be used to good end. There's no clear cut wrong or right about it--but there are certainly tensions.

What I had worked out (for myself at least) by the end of writing that post was that any concerns I might have with language used in a few of the remarks (and I will need to go back and listen to my recordings to figure out which particular remarks I was responding to--I'm sure it was something quite minor, and it was not in the speech given by Roli Majiyagbe)was more than made up for by what the filmmakers had been able to accomplish. So, what I came away with at the end of writing (which I obviously did not clearly enough communicate in the actual post) was that jumping to political conclusions is often more harmful than it is helpful. So, I agree with you in many ways.

My comments on Gidan Dabino probably also need to be qualified a little bit. He recieved a q'uranic education, and enrolled in adult government education in his early twenties, finishing primary and secondary school in seven years. He has recently completed a professional diploma in Mass Communications at Bayero University, as well as having attended quite a few workshops etc. So, he has recieved training. What I was intending to say, and which came out badly, was that he has not been raised with a certain Western model of what makes up great literature, but his novels and his articles (which he has presented at quite a few workshops and conferences, and which have been widely published in Hausa newspapers--and as you know, he is currently Chairman of Kano Association of Nigerian Authors) display his willingness to intellectually engage with and challenge those who claim that contemporary literature (or at least the literature of his generation) written in Hausa is "trash."

Ultimately, it is not outside observers like me who will or should determine what is accepted as the "best literature and film" by a Hausa audience but practitioners and intellectuals here. The only caveat, I'd like to make, and we can continue this conversation offline, is that the componants and aesthetics of "great" American or European or Asian (etc. etc.) literature and film will not necessarily be exactly the same componants and aesthetics that make up "great" African, or Nigerian, or Hausa literature--those things will and should be determined by audiences and critics here. But, from what I've heard you say before, I think that's probably one area where we do agree. I'll look forward to continuing this conversation offline or on...

marry said...

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