Popular Hausa Drama in Niger and the Politics of Its Appropriation
Ousseina D. Alidou
The primary objective of this chapter is to argue that prior to colonization there were various forms of drama in contemporary Hausa cultures that set the foundations for the modern Hausa popular theater. This chapter also shows that from the precolonial era to the present the Hausa popular drama has been undergoing a restructuring--of language, forms of performance and thematic contents--through the development of new subgenres or the borrowing of new artistic elements from other contact cultures, to reflect the historical and political shifts operating within Hausa society. This restructuring will be illustrated through an examination of the politics of appropriation of Hausa drama in Niger from the precolonial era to the present, and the dramatic genres resulting from the nature of these appropriations.
I will show that in the process of its restructuring, the Hausa traditional drama has lost its most essential feature as a cultural art form that is supposed to represent the voice of the "common" people, as it has been appropriated by the "dominant" classes operating in and out of the country. Thus, unlike what occurs in Latin America, where, according to McCoy ( 1992: 10), the term popular theater (or new theater) "refers to . . . alternative theaters aligned with the 'people'" (marginalized poor, working class, students, etc.) rather than with the "bourgeoisie" who is steeped in European traditions, in Niger "popular" drama unfortunately refers to drama genres that have been deprived of their original capacity to raise the critical consciousness of their performers and audience.
Let me begin with the first few scholars who have made a valuable contribution to the study of both the creative and artistic features of Hausa popular drama. At the national level, Dan-Inna Chaibou ( 1978-1979), a play critic, dramatist