Friday, March 30, 2007

From an Austin hotel: Ibrahim Sheme's blog and Ali Nuhu wins Best Upcoming Actor for role in Sitanda

After a long day of travel (during which I wrote a few things which I have not had a chance to edit for the blog), I arrived safely in Austin. The hotel has free wireless so I was able to check up on a few of my daily blogs (arrghh. can i not ever let myself take a break from this!?).

Ibrahim Sheme has uploaded an interview with the Hausa Star Ali Nuhu, who just won a Nollywood award for his role in Sitanda. I discovered Ibrahim Sheme's blog only a few days ago, but it's quickly becoming one of my favourites. Ibrahim Sheme is a fabulous bilingual writer (his blog is also bilingual), whose Hausa novel 'Yar Tsana blew me away. He is also the publisher of the Hausa FIM magazine and the brand new Frontline.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Off to a conference in Texas

I'm off to a conference on Popular Culture in Africa at the University of Texas, Austin, tomorrow. Here is the handout I have prepared for my presentation on the video-film Albashi, directed by Abbas Sadiq and produced by Zainab Idris. Unfortunately, when I did the print screen and converted to a jpg file, the image is not clear enough to be able to see the subtitles for the film stills, but it gives you an idea of what I'm doing in my paper anyway.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Le Déclin de l'empire américain directed by Denys Arcand (1986)

Just posted a lengthy review of Montreal director Denys Arcand's (1986) film Le Déclin de l'empire américain or The Decline of the American Empire (that I had to watch for class) on my other blog. Warning: 95% of this film consists of people talking about sex (on the surface, and about other things underneath), so the review, of necessity, talks about that. Not for the non-literary reader who is offended by that sort of thing.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Arghhh!!! I am in the middle of trying to prepare for a conference paper that I am presenting at a conference next weekend, and my powerpoint is crashing. This is only one in a line of microsoft products that are not correctly working on my computer.

About two weeks ago, my internet explorer started giving me an error report and closing the entire programme if I wanted to shut down one window. Additionally, I use outlook express and when I try to click on a link from one of my messages opened in outlook express, internet explorer will open and immediately crash. So I can't open any links from outlook express anymore.

Now, I am editing an old powerpoint presentation for my conference presentation. When I click on the embedded video in the powerpoint frame, powerpoint freezes up, and I have to use control alt delete to shut down powerpoint. So, I clicked on the troubleshooting link after sending about 10 error reports, and Microsoft recommended a bunch of updates. So, I downloaded about an hour's worth of updates, and it still hasn't made a bloody bit of difference to either internet explorer or powerpoint. What am I going to DO about my conference presentation!? I can't even put together my presentation if it keeps crashing.

Any computer experts out there who have had similar problems???

Update on detained writer Friday John Abba

Here is an update from Dr. Wale Okediran (Association of Nigerian Authors National President) on the detained member of Kaduna ANA, Friday John Abba. I don't want to post the entire letter that Dr. Okediran posted to the Jos-ANA listserve without his permission, but here is the basic outline: On Wednesday March 21, an ANA team consisting of Dr. Okediran, as national ANA president, and officials of ANA Kaduna met with the Director of the Kaduna state SSS. The director confirmed that Friday John Abba has been in the custody of the SSS and claimed that FJA has been accused of being a part of a Niger Delta gun smuggling network. Under the auspices of "state security and terrorism," the SSS has "secured a special legal permit to keep FJA until investigations are over," meaning that he will "legally" be kept incommunicado without a public court charge until the SSS is "satisfied" with their investigation. (This sounds wretchedly like the rhetoric being used by the United States government over their bypassing of laws and abuse of suspected "terrorists.") His lawyer's application for bail was rejected. The Director of the SSS Kaduna "assured" the ANA representatives "that FJA is in good conditions and is not being tortured in any way." The ANA request to see and speak with FJA was "turned down" and they were told they would need to "formally apply for this through the National SSS Director in Abuja." ANA members as well as PEN Nigeria, and International, currently await for further updates on the situation.

For the original press release about FJA's arrest and the following discussion see here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back from the ALA, Dennis Brutus et moi (and driving again...)

(South African poet) Dennis Brutus and me last night at the ALA after party. I have to thank my friend F. for dragging me along to get this photo.

It was a good time, although Morgantown is a little out of the way. Just got back about an hour ago, and too tired to write about it right now.

But, I'm finally driving again. I think I scared everyone in the car on Wednesday when I first started driving (first time in about 5 years) by going on the rumble strip when trying to pass a big truck, but I quickly grew accustomed to it again. In fact, I enjoy it. Perhaps, now, I can think more seriously about renting a car when I need to. Observation from a recently revived driver: the drivers of SUVs and little red cars seem to have aggressive personalities...

More later...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Off to the ALA conference and the detention of Kaduna writer Friday John Abba

I am off to the African Literature Association conference in West Virginia tomorrow, so I probably will be out of immediate contact until the end of the weekend. I'm traveling with several people from my department, and despite having never owned a car and having not driven in five years, I am signed on as a driver, so pray that I make it back to Blogville alive....! This time I'm not presenting, just hanging out and listening to papers, which will be refreshing. I will also be meeting Helon Habila! Yay!

After that brief preface, here is a more serious matter via the Jos-ANA listserve that I'm on that I have been wanting to blog on for a while, but I was waiting to find out more of the details. Over a month ago, the vice-chairman of the Kaduna chapter of the Association of Nigerian authors , Friday John Abba, went missing. After some investigation, it was found that he had been arrested by the SSS, and has been held in Abuja without any access to legal representation or to communication with his family. The Association of Nigerian Authors EXCO had a meeting scheduled with the national SSS director in Abuja today, and I will post an update when I hear what happened. In the meantime, here is a press release from Kaduna ANA.

And finally, here is a very interesting statement by Yar'Adua about his plans for Nigeria should he be elected.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Blog and Translation Work

Last month I started a new blog to hold some of my longer, less bite-sized posts. I will be periodically posting longer pieces of text that I am working on: translation projects, short stories, film and book reviews, etc. I'd appreciate good critical feedback. I posted my first "real" contribution to the blog tonight--the first (still very rough) chapter of a translation from Hausa to English that I am working on: Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino's novel Kaico!

Whenever I update the "literary" blog, I'll post a link here. Comments and suggestions very welcome.


Ba humbug

I am becoming old and grouchy. Harumph. Harumph.

Or maybe i just need a little more sleep. church was good. when riding home on the college van with mostly undergraduates, it took over an hour to get home because we were checking out the new church site and people were just taking their time. then we got lost on the way home. no one's fault, but i feel grouchy. so here's an unchristian grumble.

grumble. grumble. harumph. ba humbug.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Invisible Children

So, last night I went to see Invisible Children. I was a bit suspicious about the film, made as it is by a three white Californian 20 year olds. But since a Ugandan friend of mine thinks it is a really good documentary, I decided to go and see what all the hype was about. The film is made by three very young men who went to Uganda in search of adventure and found "their story" in that of the northern Ugandan children who "commute" from their homes in the countryside to the town of Gulu every night to sleep. The children sleep en-masse in the hospital and on verandas in town where they are less vulnerable to abduction from the Lords Resistance Army, a cultish rebel group who kidnaps children and indoctrinates them into the army. (This is the info I got from the film btw; here's a better explanation at a BBC site. Also here. And of course Wikipedia with it's series of links to other sources.)

I was suspicious about it being the "same old, same old" with white people from America wanting to save Africans from themselves, and the beginning of the movie, which highlighted the extreme ignorance of these three young documentarians and their weeping mothers as they went off to Africa, confirmed my fears. However, overall, I was pleasantly surprised. After the first 10 minutes or so the film began to focus less and less on the "adventures" of the young Americans and more and more on the voices of the children. Neither did it focus entirely on the poverty or sadness of the situation but brought out moments of humour and joy and agency. When the filmmakers enter the story, they mock themselves for their own ignorance. So, overall, I think that it is a film worth seeing, with the caveat that there aren't very precise explanations for what you are seeing on screen. If you want to actually get a good contextual understanding of the LRA and the current situation in northern Uganda, you will have to do your own outside research.
That said, the person who introduced and handled the Q&A at the end of the film was absolutely appalling, and my friends and I left the film fuming. Although he has worked in Uganda, he didn't seem to know very many of the details about the situation; he glossed over the history saying that we wouldn't understand it, saying things like "Africa has so many problems; it doesn't makes sense; it's just a loony situation." He was also very dismissive of questions from people (the majority of the audience were graduate students) who actually wanted to know about the peace talks, weapons suppliers, and other contextual details. He seemed to think the answer to the problem was to get a bunch of American youth to go over to "fix" things, energize the people, and that all would be well. He made some statements that were so stereotypical and so offensive that I got shaky. What made it worse is that a friend from another department had asked me to help with publicity for the event, so I had gotten my department involved. I was so embarrassed by the speaker, I was PRAYING that no one from my department showed up.

Last night, I came home and looked at the invisible children website and groaned. While I thought the film itself was well-done for a documentary of its genre, the whole hoopla that has come out of it is like "adventure camp" meets "Indiana Jones" meets "Madonna adopts a whole country." The first video on their media website has all these white twenty-somethings marching forth as into battle to what sounds like CCM music, and riding on top of vans and playing air guitar. It seems to become all about empowering the white American youth. The subsequent trailer for the new movie (Blair Witch Project meets Indiana Jones meets Uganda) is no better. The strength of the film I saw last night is that (for the most part) it let the children tell their stories. The website makes "Africa" into the new adventureland and makes it look like getting rid of the LRA will be like beating a computer game.

I hate to be cynical about well-intentioned people (especially when I am doing nothing to help the situation myself), and I don't want to downplay the positive aspects of this youth mission. I have no doubt that they have helped a lot of the children they have featured in the film. It is a good thing to mobilize American youth to be concerned about the rest of the world. I also think that any psychological rehabilitation that can be offered to the children who have escaped from the LRA is absolutely necessary. However, there are so many instances of so much harm being done by those who are very well-intentioned. The kind of vague understanding of (and indeed misinformation about) the context that the speaker gave last night only deepens stereotypes of Africa, without offering many options for practical activism. (I'm sure that other people who show the film have done a better job of this.) And the website gives me the same bad feeling that the recent celebrity obsession with Africa (especially that horrendous "I am African" campaign) gives me. I'm not going to take the time to do any in depth analysis of the film or the publicity images right now, but I welcome feedback and thoughts on this.

I admit that I did enjoy this clip though....

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The stupidity about removing ajami from the naira

Ok, I've been following the controversy about removing the "Arabic" from the naira for some months now (see the following articles and here and here and here, and I'm annoyed by the lack of historical knowledge behind this decision....

First of all, it is NOT Arabic that appears there in that beautiful flowing script at the bottom of the N500 pictured above. It is HAUSA written in AJAMI, which is the name for the Arabic SCRIPT that was brought to the region that is now northern Nigeria probably around 900 years ago. Therefore, to take the "arabic" off because it is a foreign imposition is just nonsense; it precedes Roman script in the region now called Nigeria by about 800 years. Hausa has been written in ajami script for at LEAST since the 17th century (See John Edward Philips article "Myths of Twentieth Century Hausa" also "Hausa Orthography in the 20th century" or Hausa Roman Orthography: Reform). And for a far longer time, historical records were kept in Arabic (just as official business and writing in Europe was often conducted in Latin). So is Arabic even a "foreign" language? (Here is another link to the importance of ajami to the study of history)
Second of all, Hausa in roman script was introduced by Lord Lugard at the beginning of the last century, because he made Hausa the official language of the army (according to Philips because it was already widely spoken as a trade language from the north to the middlebelt where he was trying to recruit soldiers) and wanted his colonial officers to have an easier time of learning the language... and apparently it would have been too hard on them to make them learn ajami... (I know... I started learning ajami and have forgotten it all... but plan to start again.) So, really, if one is worried about foreign impositions, the roman script is a far more recent imposition. And the anxieties that pushed the colonialists to make the change to writing Hausa in Roman script seem to be the same anxieties that propell this "nationalist" decision to remove ajami from the naira. Does that mean roman script should be tossed out and ajami reinstituted. No. But does the fact that the colonizers preferred Hausa mean that all Hausas colluded with the colonizers? Any more than the warrent chiefs mean that all Igbos colluded with the colonizers? Obviously not. The issue with the naira is... what of the people who only read ajami? which brings me to my third point....

Third of all (not proper grammar I know), my impression is that the ajami on the naira was to communicate with those people who were literate in ajami but not roman script. There are still quite a few people in the north who recieve Q'uranic education (and not government education), for whom the ajami lettering is helpful.

I understand the argument that it is not fair that Hausa is the only non-English inscription on a national currency, but then Hausa is the only language that has another script. Now that there are Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo roman inscriptions, what does this say to the other 400 or so languages in the country? Too bad for you?

Anyway, the rant continues in this article and also this very excellent article....

For more information on the introduction of the roman script and colonialism see John Edward Philips' Spurious Arabic: Hausa and Colonial Nigeria

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Here's a Fish for you: the benevolence of armed robbers

an exerpt from my dad's latest journal re-cap letter:

More Robberies

Unfortunately, the armed robbers continue their nefarious acts. A.G., our handicapped friend who heads up the Beautiful Gate Handicapped Initiative was at our house this week and reported that he had had his robbery experience the night before. He was going to take some wheels for the wheelchairs to a little town about an hour south of Jos to a person who puts the spokes in them. He was passing through a ridge of low mountains when he saw a big truck that appeared to be jackknifed in the road. What had happened is the thieves had put big stones in the road and when the truck tried to avoid them he had partially run off the road. However, this place A. thought was an accident was a blocked road manned by armed robbers. They at first demanded his phone and his money. He had about $150 that he was going to give to the man for his work. He handed these things over. He had a little portable DVD player with him [on which] he shows [a video about his ministry].... The thieves wanted to know what it was. They started to take it but A. pushed the play button on it and it started showing all these handicapped children crawling on their hands and knees. They told him he could keep it. A. said that once they found out he was handicapped (he drives a vehicle with hand controls), they were very nice to him. At one point A. asked them, "Why are you doing this?" One of the said, "Sorry, sir, we don't like to do it but we just have to do it." They had blocked off the road and there were maybe ten cars that they were robbing. At one point, they found a woman with a big dried fish. They took it from her but I guess they decided it would be too much for them to carry into the bush so they came around to where A. was sitting and said, "Here, handicapped man, here is a fish for you." They were making everyone get out of their cars and lie on the ground. However, when they saw A. was handicapped, they told him he could sit in his car. A. asked what would happen if one of the robbers came around and did not realize he was handicapped. He said he thought he should get out and lie down too. Finally, the young robber agreed. After a couple of minutes, the robber saw A. was lying partially in the road. He came around and said, "Excuse me, oga (sir), I don't think it is good for you to lie there. If another vehicle came along, they could run over you. Why don't you move over here where it is a little safer?" So while the robbers were quite nice to A. they still took his phone and his money.

Our good friends, C. and B. [...] were also hit by armed robbers three weeks ago on Sunday evening, the 10 th of February. They [...] returned about 7:30 PM. Unfortunately, they met the thieves trying to get in their gate. The gate man had so far kept them out. However, when C. drove up and they put a gun to his head, the gate man was forced to open the gate. The robbers went into the house, stole money and their phones and beat them around a bit. B. had to go to the hospital the next day with some kind of concussion. C. and B. are made out of tough stuff. They [...] have had remarkable attitudes since that time.

We have heard of a number of other armed robbers in the last couple of weeks. One of the Christian ministries known as CRUDEN was hit one night last week. One of M.'s good friends was having a party for a young lady who was getting married with about thirty ladies attending. The robbers came into the party and took all their money and all of their phones. The lady who lives across the street from us was at a Bible study last week when the robbers came into that Bible study and demanded phones and money from all who were there.

The robbers are getting more and more brazen. This makes us sad and also has forced us to be a bit more careful. We have installed a new door in our house that is basically bullet proof and locks automatically when it is shut. We have also installed a new security lighting system as well as an alarm system. We believe that these measures will help discourage thieves but certainly will not prevent them altogether. We rest in the fact that our protection is in God who is abundantly able to take care of us.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Excerpt: Reimagining Gender Spaces in Abbas Sadiq's and Zainab Idris's film Albashi

Below is an exerpt from a paper I have been working on for about a year now. I am exerpting the short summary of the film FYI, and then I skip ahead and exerpt the bit that talks about this video. As I read over it again, i realize it is a bit brief. I could probably go on and on about it some more... but I'll spare the blog audience for now... {-; Enjoy the video.

Albashi tells the story of the troublemaker Umar and his wife Binta, whose career as a doctor is complicated by Umar’s jealousy. The story takes us through their school days, through marriage, divorce, reconciliation, and on to an uncertain future. Aspects of the film also legitimize modern women’s recourse to Islam to explain their actions and defend their interests. The character Umar holds apparently “traditional” views on the role of women while still indulging in secret (and not-so-secret) vices. On the other hand, his modern wife Binta invokes Islamic justification for her behavior. In this way, while staying within acceptable structures of interpretation, Albashi complicates expectations about how men and women interact and what spaces they occupy, at the same time as it explores male anxieties about women’s shifting gender roles. [....] [Here I skip ahead about a page]

The assumption that women are merely spectators in the public debate of men is metaphorically deconstructed when, following a childish fight instigated by the main male characters Umar, the all-male basketball game morphs into a Bollywood style song and dance number. Here, the female students are transformed from spectators of the game to active participants as they dance alongside the men and join their voices to the song. In her explication of Zainab Alkali’s novel The Stillborn, Linda Hunter suggests that dance is a metaphor that runs throughout the novel in signaling the junctures in the framing metaphor of life as a journey. Similarly, this opening dance sequence provides a challenge from the women to the men: a contest to see who is the best dancer. “Hey boys, come and learn a dance step. When I dance this way, that way, you follow the steps.” When Binta, the powerful female protagonist of the film, dances across the screen, the female voice sings, “Let’s compete, and see who is the master. I am the best, therefore watch me.” [Figure 2] This opening provides a symbolic thesis statement for the rest of the film, in which women join the public world of men. The dueling call and response between male and female voices also indicates a balance that is achievable in the visual representation of a man and woman dancing together: A little later they sing, “we have something in common, so let’s dance together,” yet the challenge remains, couched between intimate stanzas about romantic love. Binta does, in fact, prove to be the master, in her subsequent marriage to Umar, who had interrupted the game with a senseless quarrel. The rest of the film heightens this conflict between Binta, as master, and Umar as spoilsport, always in conflict with his peers in the game and dance of life, perhaps a subtle comment on the critics always "quarreling" with "modern" ways of life.
If the dancing of the women alongside the men metaphorically re-enacts the new competition in the public sphere between men and women, the movement of the women’s bodies to “romantic” lyrics on an outside basketball court also openly acknowledges the sexuality of the female body, previously hidden in the enclosed domestic space. [Figure 3] Umar’s anxiety over his girlfriend’s public career manifests itself in a concern about her sexuality. [...] kazakazakaza

Comments/Critiques welcome. For more info, wait for the dissertation... (LOL)

Film clip from and analysis regarding:
Albashi (Salary). Dir. Abbas Sadiq, Prod. Zainab Idris. Kano: Crown Studio, 2005

Sunday, March 04, 2007

clip from Newton Aduaka's prizewinning Ezra

Here's a clip from Newton Aduaka's Ezra, the film that won the FESPACO Yennenga Stallion. (I LOVE YOUTUBE!) If you go to YouTube and do a search for Newton Aduaka, you can also find a director's reel from three of his other films. I thought the reel seemed slightly melodramatic, but I'd love to see the rest of the films to form a better opinion.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

"Ezra" directed by Newton Aduaka wins FESPACO prize

Ezra wins top African film prize
James Copnall BBC News, Fespaco film festival, Burkina Faso

Newton Aduaka was a very popular winner of the Yennenga Stallion. The Nigerian film Ezra has won the top prize at the biennial African Film Festival, Fespaco, in Burkina Faso.
The festival is the major showcase for the continent's films, many of which are not widely distributed.

Ezra, the story of a child soldier in the decade-long Sierra Leone civil war, was a popular winner at a lively closing ceremony.

The film, directed by Newton Aduaka, was awarded the top prize, known as the Yennenga Stallion.

The importance of the subject and the quality of the direction were cited by the jury as the main reasons for its decision.

Aduaka was visibly moved when he received the giant golden trophy, and appeared lost for words when he spoke to the media afterwards.

To judge by the reaction of the large crowd at the closing ceremony, it was a popular choice.

For the rest of the article see here.
Photo credit: BBC


This was one of the favourite previews in my house this summer. The preview for Tutar So 2, which this song was from, was at the beginning of one of the other films and Abdullahi would keep rewinding and watching it over and over again. This song showcases most of the Hausa film industry stars... so is a good way to get to know all of their names

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Mun Gode Allah

I thought I would have Handel's Hallelujah chorus soaring. I would write about 10 Hallelujah's and pretend as though you could hear them. I planned to throw glitter about--metaphorically-- so that there would be dazzle and rejoicing and hilarity.

instead, i feel rather anxious and dissatisfied, a bit like i did when i turned in the disasterous seminar paper last semester. i turned the thesis in today, but i'm not happy with it. i found myself sniffing and getting teary in a university computer lab today when i got an insensitive email. i wanted to come home and read over the thesis again. but instead i'm going to bed. i didn't do that last night. not even for 30 minutes. so the computer is going off, and the light is going off, and my body is going off.

i'm calling it a draft, even though i gave it to all my committee members. i suppose this is the beginning of the end. i wish that i could sing a little louder.

the day i defend, i'll post an entire oratorio.

And for a fitting end to a post about my thesis, here's a fantastic article on Helon Habila that my google alerts sent to me. If it had been yesterday, I would have put some of it into my thesis...