Academic journal article African Studies Review

Islamic-Hausa Feminism Meets Northern Nigerian Romance: The Cautious Rebellion of Bilkisu Funtuwa

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Islamic-Hausa Feminism Meets Northern Nigerian Romance: The Cautious Rebellion of Bilkisu Funtuwa

Article excerpt


This study of contemporary Hausa literature analyzes a northern Nigerian body of popular fiction currently referred to as Kano market literature and known to Hausa speakers as Littattafan Soyayya (books of love). The popularity of this genre of romance rests firmly upon its subject matter, one that has proven controversial within the conservative Muslim environment of Hausa society. On the surface, the novels are preoccupied with love and marital relationships, depicting the ordeals faced by courting lovers or married couples. However, on a deeper level, the novels have become an explorative territory for the socially, culturally, and religiously loaded issues of polygamy, marriages of coercion, purdah, and the accessibility of female education. In effect, Kano market literature reflects the rapid social change confronting Hausa society and positions itself as a voice offering a new perspective on gender relations. This article examines closely the works of arguably the most celebrated woman writer, Bilkisu Ahmed Funtuwa. Acutely aware of her rigid social and religious milieu, Funtuwa offers suggestions to young women who desire a greater level of control over their familial relationships and educational direction.

Résumé: Cette étude de la littérature contemporaine Hausa analyse un corps de fiction populaire issu du nord du Nigeria et communément appelé littérature de marché Kano, et connu en langue Hausa sous le nom de Littattafan Soyayya ("livres d'amour"). La popularité de ce genre de roman à l'eau de rose est résolument fondée sur son sujet, lequel a été l'objet de controverses dans le milieu musulman conservateur de la société Hausa. En surface, ces romans se préoccupent de l'amour et des relations maritales, décrivant les rudes épreuves auxquelles sont confrontés les amants amoureux ou les couples mariés. Cependant, à un niveau plus profond, ces romans sont devenus un territoire d'exploration des questions problématiques sociales, culturelles et religieuses touchant à la polygamie, aux mariages forcés, au purdah, et à l'a ccès des femmes à l'éducation. En réalité, la littérature de marché Kano reflète la rapidité des changements sociaux auxquels la société Hausa se trouve confrontée, et se positionne en tant que voix offrant une nouvelle perspective sur les relations entre les sexes. Cet article fait un examen approfondi des oeuvres de l'écrivaine certainement la plus célèbre, Bilkisu Ahmed Funtuwa. Extrêmement consciente de la rigidité de son milieu social et religieux, Funtuwa offre des suggestions aux jeunes femmes qui désirent exercer un plus grand contrôle sur leurs relations familiales et sur leur orientation scolaire.

Kano Market Literature

In the urban areas of northern Nigeria, a burgeoning corpus of contemporary Hausa popular literature has captured the attention arid concern of the entire Hausa community. The literature can be found in the cities of Kano, Zariya, Kaduna, Katsina, and Sokoto, but given that the majority of the books are written and sold in Kano, the literature's English name is Kano market literature. Avid readers have little difficulty locating booksellers who have strategically positioned themselves in the midst of every direction of foot-traffic. Sidewalk displays, market stalls, and independent book kiosks appeal to onlookers with hundreds of book covers of youthful couples acting out love scenes. This genre of popular romance fiction, known to Hausa speakers as Littattafan Soyayya (books of love), enjoys huge popularity as interested parties voraciously devour books and await the soon-to-be-published works of their favorite writers.

As a literary phenomenon, Kano market literature possesses aesthetic, thematic, and social similarities with the Onitsha chapbooks that were sold in the eastern Nigerian market from the forties to the sixties. The difference between the two groups is one of language. Onitsha literature, written predominantly in English, catered to the tastes of the more or less literate, Westernized Nigerians (Reeves 1968:2). …

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