CULTURE: LITERATURE. ORAL PRODUCTION
Nigeria is perhaps the literally richest country in Black Africa. The different ethnic groups of Nigeria all possess a rich oral literature, but three stand out in particular: the Haussa, the Yoruba and the Ibos. Hausa literature has been heavily influenced by Islam. Of the ancient oral literature there are some genres, such as labaru, stories between history and autobiography; the kiraroi, hyperbolic praise songs; the karim magana, often cynical proverbs; the wakoki, work songs and social satire; the shows kidan ruwa and wasan maharba. Written literature, first in Arabic characters, dates back to the 10th century. XV, but acquired literary value in the century. XIX, thanks to the poet Moḥammed na Birnin Gwari, then to the epic poet Shehu na Salga, to Ibrāhīm Nalado, to Nagwamatse and to the emir of Zaria Aliyu dan Sidi. The English influence led to the replacement of the Arabic spelling with the Latin one used by contemporary Haussa writers. Among them we cite the intellectual Sa’adu Zungur (1915-58), who deals above all with social issues: three of the four poems of a collection published in 1971, Wak’ok ‘in Sa’adu Zungur (Poems by Sa’adu Zungur), concern different political events in the country. In one, perhaps the most famous, Wakar maraba da soja (Poem of Welcome to the Soldiers), written in 1957, commemorates the return to northern Nigeria of troops from India and Burma after World War II and celebrates the exploits of his compatriots who had fought first in East Africa and then in ‘Far East. The blind folk poet Aliyu na Mangi, whose poem imitates the rhythm of the corn pestle. His profoundly religious problematic does not prevent him from composing less serious poems, such as Wak’ar keke (1969, Poetry of a bicycle). Finally the writer Abubakar Iman (d. 1958). Contemporary Hausa literature is influenced by Western culture, of which it takes up the genres (novel, autobiography, theater, essay), introduces socio-political themes, advocates an opening towards new values and, in the field of poetry, revolutionizes metric structures. For the prose we remember the famous short story Shaihu Umar (Sheikh Umar), written by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (1912-66), a former Nigerian prime minister who tragically died in the 1966 coup.
According to aparentingblog, the Yoruba have a rich and varied poetic legacy. Their poetry is not reserved for special events, but accompanies and expresses all the events of life. Rich in metaphors, onomatopoeias, repetitions, alliterations, full of humor, irony and pathos, it can be played on the drum and recited. Since the Yoruba language is tonal, the drum language is an exact imitation of the tones of speech. Oral poetry is classified not so much for its contents or structures, as for the group to which the reciter belongs and for its recitation technique: the Odu Ifa (ritual chants) are sung only by priests, the Ijala (songs about forest animals and plants) by hunters, Iwi (funeral songs) by men disguised as deified ancestors, Oriki (praising songs) by professional bards or priests. To these are added lullabies, proverbs, riddles, stories and chronicles. Written Yoruba literature was born around the century. XIX: the oldest literary monument is the translation of the Bible, made by the African bishop Samuel Crowther (1806-91) in the first half of the nineteenth century. The oldest literary works date back to 1890, but a real literature develops only with the Second World War, and shows the most keen attachment to the native language and culture. The most significant authors are: Daniel Fagunwa (1910-63) with short stories The Brave Hunter in the Forest of 1000 Spirits (1939) and The Bush of the Almighty (1949); OI Delano, A. Babalola (b. 1926) and A. Faleti. Towards the middle of the century. XX was born the Yoruba opera, synthesis of strongly didactic texts and African and jazz music. The history of Yoruba folk theater is linked to three authors-actors: Hubert Ogunde (b.1916), founder of a Nigerian theater of professionals, based on the fusion of African music, biblical themes and traditional literature. His theater, oriented on social and satirical themes, is one of the most dynamic. It influenced, in the fifties, Kola Ogunmola (1925-73), who reached a wider and more popular audience, with a theater that is directly inspired by folklore and wants to be an instrument of education for the masses. Duro Ladipo (1931-178), who achieved not only African but European success, turned out to be the closest to Yoruba traditions, whose philosophy he drew on to create a show that blends words, song, music and dance. The Ibos, who have a traditional oral literature, are more Westernized and prefer English to their mother tongue. However, we mention the novelist P. Nwana, considered a classic, and the poet D. Nwoga. Popular literature is represented here by novels and short stories written in rudimentary English or in pidgin, which deal with urban life, with its individualism, the cult of money and pleasure, amoral exuberance. Of great sociological interest, they inspired a good novelist of international fame: Cyprian Ekwensi (1921-2007).
CULTURE: LITERATURE. PRODUCTION IN THE HAUSSA LANGUAGE
As regards the languages spoken in Nigeria, Haussa is of particular importance, used by about 20 million people (it is estimated that at least another 5 million individuals speak it outside Nigerian borders). And since Hausa communities are present in all the great centers of West Africa, it is often used as a lingua franca. Until the first decades of the century. XX the Haussa language was written in ajami (Arabic characters). In the thirties, after studies begun in 1911, the English imposed the Latin characters and started a process of unification of the language, based on the dialect of Kano (Kananci). The greatest exponents of this literature are Sa’idu Ahmed Daura, author of a tasty novel, The star of the desert (1965), in which the current superstitions are benevolently mocked and in particular the habit of consulting the malam, that is, the expert in the Koranic sciences, in order to be able to predict the future, and Umaru Dembo, whose novel The Comet (1969) is the first attempt at science fiction. As far as the theater is concerned, the wasa (pl. Wasanni) plays have been quite small in number, although the art of drama is a religious aspect of the lifestyle of the maguzawa, that is, of the pagan haussa. The popular haussa drama, bori, is based on the dramatization of a spirit or iska. Each spirit is dominated by a character, and the actor who is under the spell of that spirit expresses that character. Islam has made the cult of the bori unpopular among Muslim Hausa to combat pagan beliefs. It is probable that, precisely for this reason, theater, in the modern sense, could not have had a great development in Hausa society. Its content reflects the problems of the local world, particularly that of the polygamous family, and sends a clear message. One of the first attempts by a Haussa writer, Abubakar Tunau, is represented by Wasan Marafa (1949; The comedy of Marafa) in one act: it is the story of a village that is visited by a health inspector, who teaches hygiene, and urges people to clean the village. Two plays by Shu’aibu Mak’arfi (1918-2008), Malam Maidala’ilu and Zamanin Nan Namu (1959; These modern times) are inspired by the problem of the polygamous family. By the same author is Jatau na K’yallu (1960; Jatau and Kyallu), which faithfully reproduces the problems of Kano’s Hausa society. Uwar Gulma (1968; Gulma’s wife) by Muhammad Sada (b.1942) deals with a simple story in a language that is heavily influencedby the Katsina (Katsinanci) dialect. Among the other theatrical productions, the volume should be noted Bora Da Mowa (1973; The beloved and the unloved) by Umaru Balarabe Ahmed, which contains four plays, the first of which gives the title to the volume; Bello Muhammad’s Malam Mahamman (1975), a comedy that shows how stupid it is to use amulets and spells to get what you want; Matar Mutum Kabarinsa (1975; The Man’s Wife and His Grave) by Bashari Farouk Roukbah, a comedy that says that no one can avoid marrying the woman destined for him by fate.