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Tue, 07.08.1000

The Hausa African Community, a story

The Hausa Community Flag

*The Hausa community is celebrated on this date in 1000. The Hausa are the largest ethnic group in sub-Saharan Africa, with the second most spoken language after Arabic in the Afro-Asiatic language family.

The Hausa are diverse but culturally homogeneous people based primarily in the Sahelian and the sparse savanna areas of southern Niger and northern Nigeria. Over 80 million people with significant indigenized populations in BeninCameroonIvory CoastChadSudan, Central African Republic, Republic of the CongoTogoGhanaEritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Senegal, and The Gambia. Predominantly Hausa-speaking communities are throughout West Africa and on the traditional Hajj route north and east, traversing the Sahara.

Other Hausa have also moved to large coastal cities such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Accra, Abidjan, Banjul, Cotonou, and parts of North Africa such as Libya. The Hausa traditionally live in small villages and pre-colonial towns and cities where they grow crops, raise cattle, and engage in trade locally and across Africa. They speak the Hausa language, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Chadic group. The Hausa aristocracy had historically developed an equestrian-based culture. A status symbol of the traditional nobility in Hausa society, the horse still features in the Eid day celebrations, known as Ranar Sallah (in English: The Day of the Prayer).

Daura city is the cultural center of the Hausa people. The town predates all the other major Hausa towns in tradition and culture. In the last 500 years, the Hausa have crisscrossed the vast landscape of Africa in all its four corners for various reasons. They range from military service, long-distance trade, hunting, the performance of the hajj, fleeing from oppressive Hausa feudal kings, and spreading Islam. The table below shows the Hausa ethnic population distribution by country of indigenization outside of Nigeria and Niger. Daura, in northern Nigeria, is the oldest city of Hausaland.

The Hausa of Gobir, also in northern Nigeria, speak the oldest surviving classical vocabulary of the language. Historically, Katsina was the center of Hausa Islamic scholarship, but now by Sokoto stemming from the 17th century Usman Dan Fodio Islamic reform. The Hausa are culturally and historically closest to other Sahelian ethnic groups, primarily the Fula, Zarma, Songhai Bambara, and Dosso. Since pre-colonial times, the Hausa Language is also in modified Arabic script, known as Ajami. The earliest Hausa Ajami manuscript with a reliable date is the Ruwayar Annabi Musa by the Kano scholar Abdullah Suka, who lived in the sixteen hundreds.

This manuscript is in the collection of the Jos Museum. Other well-known scholars and saints of the Sufi order from Katsina, Danmarna, and Danmasani have been composing Ajami and Arabic poetry from earlier times in the sixteen hundred. Gradually, many Hausa Ajami manuscripts were written, which increased in volume through the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries and continued into the twentieth. With the Nineteenth Century witnessing even more impetus due to the Usman dan Fodio Islamic reform, a copious writer who encouraged literacy and scholarship for both men and women, several of his daughters emerged as scholars and writers.

Ajami book publishing today has become greatly surpassed by Romanized Hausa, or Boko, publishing. A modern literary movement led by female Hausa writers grew since the late 1980s when writer Balaraba Ramat Yakubu became popular. In time, the writers spurred a unique genre known as Kano market literature — so named because the books are often self-published and sold in the markets of Nigeria. The provocative nature of these novels, often romantic and family dramas that are otherwise hard to find in the Hausa tradition and lifestyle, has made them popular, especially among female readers. The genre is littattafan soyayya, or “love literature.”

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