I write in Hausa Ďcos I didnít get Western education - Says Murtala Muhammedís sister
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Hajiya Balaraba Ramat Yakubu, younger sister of the late head of state, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, is one of the respected voices in Hausa literature and movies. The 50-year-old, who has written nine novels, produced a movie and written several movie scripts, gives insights into her creative world in this interview with Akintayo Abodunrin. Excerpts:

Why do you write in Hausa?
Iím an Hausa lady and Iím not educated. I was removed from school at 13 years to get married. My father didnít fancy western education and I think among my cousins, I was the only one that attended primary school. I was in primary four when I was stopped but I struggled to get western education through adult classes and that took me to Bauchi where I did a certificate course. Thatís why all my writings are in Hausa.

What are the issues that prompt you to write?
My writings are usually on family issues and maybe that is why they are popular. Polygamy, early marriage and issues of maids or househelps are some of the issues that make me write. And I think that is why the books are popular.

Are you saying your experiences form part of what you write?
Yes, some of the books and some of the chapters in my books reflect my experiences. There is no way I can write without including my experiences because Iím also a victim of some retrogressive cultural practices. We are Muslims and we have rules in Islam for marriage and so on. But sometimes, our culture dominates the religious dictates and culture and religion are different. So, I fight because I want to stress that culture and religion are different. Probably that is why Iím called a controversial writer.

You are called a controversial writer?
Yes, because I tackle issues that some people and writers are afraid to talk about.

Issues like what?
Before, some old people like my motherís age mates think that their husbands are second to their God but I let them know that their husband is their mate, friend and whatever. Before, it was not like that and because that belief is still dominant in the northern states, whenever you touch that area, men donít like it.

You are credited as one of the inspirations behind the popular Soyaya trend in Hausa Literature...
Most of our books, I agree are Soyaya but there are a number of others that are not Soyaya. In my books for example, I combine the Soyaya and other elements but you canít really call it Soyaya because five of them are in the syllabus for Kano State Junior Secondary Schools and even one is being used at the Federal College of Education (FCE), Kano All the books were recommended by the Kano Education Resource Centre. If I have that much Soyaya in it, the education people will put it in the syllabus.

It is said that your books also inspired the Hausa movie industry called Kannywood?
Yes, I translated one of my books, thatís Inasonsa Haka into film. Another one, Alhaki Kuykuyo, in the syllabus was adopted it into film by one company. I write many scripts for films and for social orientation programmes in Kano.

Is it because you were forced into early marriage that you now advocate that young girls shouldnít be forced to marry early?
Early marriage used to be common in the North before but now, we want to see our girls occupy big positions like other girls from any part of Nigeria. I donít buy the idea of early marriage because I had to push myself to understand the little English Iím speaking with you. If I hadnít pushed myself, I wouldnít have understood any English. I really desire our daughters in the North to be well educated. I have only two daughters and I want them to have quality education

What caused the crisis in the Hausa film industry?
I think Hausa films are enlightening people, especially Hausa people although I know itís not like books. But I donít see why the government wants to censure us. For me, Hausa film is invaluable in educating the people if we do it the right way.

Does it contravene the laws of Islam?
Iím not deeply into religion but I know that films come from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the people that did it are not Muslims, even the artistes in it are not Muslims. Like I said, Iím not a religious teacher but from what I hear the Ulamas say, Islam doesnít have anything against film making.

Donít you think you have a limited readership because you write only in Hausa language?
I donít think thatís true because people come from abroad to see me. For example, a student at Winsconsin University wrote his thesis on two of my books and he came to Nigeria purposely to see me. He brought the thesis and he is now a lecturer at that university so I think even if I write in my indigenous language, I have achieved something. I think Iím ok writing in Hausa but now I see that I have to translate some of the books. Iíve started with two and I hope to translate all the others too so that I can reach a wider audience.

What are the challenges you face in writing?
One challenge Iím facing is that people call me feminist and I tell them instead of calling me feminist, they should rather see me as half humanist and half feminist so they can get the true picture.

Yes, in some parts Iím feminist and in some parts Iím humanist but itís because in the North we have problems. Thatís why whenever I write or talk, I side with women. Iím presumed to be too independent and desirous of women being at par with men. Thatís what they accuse me of and is what I see as a challenge but Iím not bothered at all. All I want is for women to get their rights. Thatís what my books are about and is what I stand for.

Whatís your view on the songs and dances in Hausa films?
I donít like the songs and dances because it is not our culture, we have our cultural dances and songs but that Indian style is not our culture. The problem we are having is that the audience like it. The audience like the dancing; if you donít have singing and dancing in your film... For example, I spent about N1.7 million to make a film but there is no singing and dancing in it. Up till now, the jackets of the film are in my room, people didnít buy it. But the person who spent N250,000 and put beautiful girls in it to dance is riding a car when Hajia doesnít even have okada to ride.

Whatí sort of person was your late brother?
We called him Yahaya. Yahaya is senior brother. All of us were afraid of him because he was a no-nonsense person and he canít talk to you twice. If he tells you no, you know itís no. He was a loving person because whatever problem you have he will sit with you and discuss with you. We really miss him. The gap he left, nothing will fill it. His death is a great loss to the family but we are consoled that Nigerians across the globe love him for his character.

Do you have a story/gist for publication? Please email it to story@nigeriafilms.com

alanna | 7/15/2008 4:42:39 PM
Saanu Malama, I am a Yoruba girl who loves the Hausa culture. I learnt the languaage while in Primary schol but I seem to hav forgotten it now. I hope you continue what you're doing over there because you such a great inspiration. And how can we get more Hausa films to watch in South West. This is what Nigeria needs, different culture coming together and we celebrating our achievements, THIS IS THE GREAT NIGERIA THAT I LOVE. MURITALA WAS GREAT, THANKYOU SO MUCH, NAGODE!
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Your advice is needed
Abbas yahaya | 6/18/2013 12:38:44 AM
Madam; I read your conversation done by you with akintayo, and I comprehend so many things about it. What i want you to do is that, the literature we are using in elementary and higher institutions of learning are too old. So, let you organize national conference on changing the hausa curriculum from old to present generation. This can be done through the use of the recent litereture that we have like you, ado ahmad g/dabino, abubakar ladan zaria, sani mai nagge, anty uwani kankia and many others. This because we malaman zamani and daliban zamani we may not be able to curtale such old literetures. Other areas of teaching and learning process the use to update their literetures because of the changing of new generation. These books: ruwan bagaja, gandoki,shaihu umar, jiki magayi etc, have been used since 1933 and hitherto. Thus, it is for this purpose that i urge you to gather the philosophers of hausa curriculum amendement like hambali jinju, ibrahim y.y, tanimu m. 'yar'adua, m.k.m galadanci, A dangambo etc that have the ability to do so. Thanks!
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