As the Hausa movie industry (aka Kannywood) clocks 20, a group of pioneer artistes comprising producers, directors and actors, plan to mark the anniversary with a grand celebration. ABDULAZIZ ABDULAZIZ and CHIOMA RITA ODILI report from Kano, the nerve of the industry:

The history of the Hausa film industry can be traced to the early 1990s when vernacular soap operas, popularised by local television stations, began the transition to video tapes – the precursor of today’s multi-billion naira Hausa film industry better known as the Kannywood. In the late 1980s, television drama series (usually broadcast at night) which featured such legendary actors as Malam Mamman, Tambaya, Hankaka, Kassimu Yero, and host of others, were the only source of modern audio-visual entertainment in Hausaland which make up a large chunk of Northern Nigeria.

Other inspirations from which the Kannywood pioneers tapped include stage drama and Indian films (Bollywood movies). For a long time, stage drama has been used as an instrument of mass mobilisation’ especially for rural populace. The colonialists used mobile theatres to preach and teach various subjects across towns and villages. The earliest forms of Hausa TV drama and films drew there characterisation and simple use of props, from such stage shows, this enabled production at a very low cost.

The proliferation of Indian films, especially in the 1980s and availability of cinematic shows as well as affordability of electronics in households, meant acquaintance with Indian movies. The Hausa film industry drew a lot from storylines and casts from the Indian love and thriller movies largely due to cultural affinity.

Interestingly, Kannywood predates the southern Nigeria based film industry, Nollywood, a fact that is often not noted. The first Nollywood movie, according to records, is Living in Bondage, produced in 1994; whereas, on the other hand, the first Hausa movie was released to the market on March 15, 1990. The movie is Turmin Danya produced by Ibrahim Mandawari under the auspices of Tumbin Giwa Drama Club.

With audience throughout the Hausa speaking world and the academia in Western universities, the Hausa film industry is a trailblazer of sorts. In Kano , for example, where the industry has its roots, Kannywood is arguably the single largest employer, especially with most once-vibrant industries closing shops on daily basis. Kannywood’s worth is estimated at billions of naira and counting. It employs wide range of labour from the barely educated to the highly educated who perform a variety of roles, from serving as assistants to acting in the films or manning cameras and editing.

For these, and many other reasons, a group of prominent Kannywood filmmakers – producers, directors, actors, playback singers, editors and cameramen, under the umbrella of Pioneers Forum, developed the idea of celebrating the existence of kannywood as it clocks 20 years of existence. The event is billed for the second week of December at two locations; Kano (the nerve of the industry) and Abuaj (the Federal Capital Territory ).

The event, according to veteran actor and producer, Ibrahim Mandawari, is an a venue for thanksgiving to God for keeping the industry vibrant, despite all the tumultuous moments it encountered in the last 20 years. According to him, the ceremony would also serve as a time for reflection for the practitioners to take some lessons from the past twenty years of the existence of the industry and cast the minds on the feature on how to take Kannywood to greater heights.

Among the concerns of the Pioneers Forum, which the Kannywood @ 20 ceremony is set to address, are the key issues of funding which, according to some observers, is the root cause of low quality productions in the industry; the issue of piracy as well as lack of training windows for stakeholders at all levels of production in the industry. Through seminars, fund raiser and award night, the organisers intend to relive the past and refocus the industry by injecting more vigour and professionalism into it.

For the purpose of having a befitting commemoration, the Pioneers Forum invited some key stakeholders for a sensitisation meeting, about the event. The meeting which was held at Mambayya House, in Kano, was well attended with big names in the industry in attendance. A talk on the progress of the industry and its challenges was given by Dr Auwalu Kawu with Abdulkareem Muhammad and Ibrahim Mandawri chipping in.

To ease the burden on the steering committee and to decentralise the organisation of the event for efficiency, subcommittees were inaugurated with the mandate of taking up tools to action toward the success of the event. The committees include that of technical, prayers, cultural night, public lecture, gala night, award night, fundraising dinner, security, public relations, protocol and local organising committee.

The event is expected to kick off on December 10 with a special prayer session which will be followed by cultural night and a two day international seminar. The fundraiser and award night are expected to hold in Abuja.

Indeed, there is no better way to commemorate Kannywood as it clocks 20 than with these ambitious programmes lined up, which also, as the organisers said, promise to not only be exciting but educative, as well as an avenue to ponder on issues surrounding the industry and provide a chance for reunions between the players of the industry and observers.