Northern Nigerian Popular Literature and the Boundaries of Hausa Feminism: The Works of Balaraba Yakubu and Bilkisu Funtuwa

Publication year

The author explains in a footnote that

Over the course of a year (1997-98), I conversed with Hausa writers and readers in the surrounding areas of Kano, Kaduna, Zariya, Sokoto, and Katsina, conducting extensive interviews regarding their opinions of Kano popular literature. I spent time speaking with the general public as well, trying to gage their estimation of the popular literature and its contribution to Hausa society. (185)

This, and the fact that the volume is titled a "reader" makes me think that this chapter may well be a re-titled version of "Hausa Women Writers Confronting the Traditional Status of Women in Modern Islamic Society: Feminist Thought in Nigerian Popular Fiction," an 2003 article on this topic by the author. In addition, when I compared the first page of each article, they appeared to be identical. I have not, however, made an exhaustive comparison of all the pages, so it may be that some elements were changed.

Details about the 2003 article can be found elsewhere in the database.


The romantic novels have become an explorative forum for the socially and culturally loaded issues of polygamy, marriages of coercion, purdah (the Islamic tradition of seclusion), and accessibility of education for females. As a result, the literature indirectly and candidly questions the gender status quo and works to modify the social, familial, and educational position of Hausa women. (184-185)


Contrary to public perception, all Soyayya writers assert that the novels are created with the ultimate intention of instilling proper moral behaviour among the reading constituency; and as they contend, the didactic intentions of their stories are unmistakable. In order to clarify their ethical agendas, numerous writers include prefaces that unequivocally explicate the thematic direction and instructive nature of various novels. Writers, without exception, feel a sense of social responsibility in advising a youth confused by the volatile social climate. Readers confirm that the literature has had the desired effect, claiming that the books are beneficial on several levels. In their estimation, Soyayya novels possess the dual attributes of entertainment and instruction. Readers can experience an array of pleasurable fantasies while remaining conscious of the fact that the romantic trope of stories is a vehicle for the social concerns of writers. (185)