Category Archives: Society

On Culture

Qudus (left) and troupe performing at a show.

Qudus (left) and troupe performing at a show.

“Culture in my own opinion isn’t and can’t be for sale, to the highest bidder, culture is supposed to arm the proletariat, as to what is worthy of their actions, should be able to raise consciousness and empower people beyond the need for bread and butter, should be able to be a powerful sector for the reengineering of our value system, should be able to be a teacher like Fela Kuti said, culture and tradition should be a major signifier of our underlining philosophy as a people, who still has a lot to do with self imagination, and it is up to the culture people to make the power people understand this in ways at which they understand the importance of education, of security, of good roads and other sectors in which they invest heavily, without any question of how it adds to the gdp, because they know it does, in an abstract way.”

Qudus Onikeku.

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On “The Names of Continents” at Kigali

My poem, “The Names of Continents”, was performed @transpoesis End Violence, Empower Women poetry performance in #Kigali last week. It was read by Amina (in the rose blouse) accompanied by the guitar. Many thanks to Dr. Andrea Grieder and her team.

I stand in the street in the crowd with my aunts and sisters, we cause

Tremors and our leader who looks like my mother unties a child and

Feeds it from her own breast while the world of lies falls silent. She says—

Africa and Asia and America and Europa are named for women because the World

Itself is a woman, words for “seed” or “boy”, “song” “rain” or “man” from our womb is birthed

For there can be no words without sound and women are the sound and the soundness

Of all creation

From, The Names of Continents.

On So Aljanar Duniya

“Aure! Inna ni fa na gaya muku ba zan auri kowa ba sai wanda nake so. Kun san zamani ya sake. Kuma yanzu ban ga abin da zai hana ku ba ni shi ba. Yana da mutunchi da natsuwa. Ba abin da za mu nuna musu. Kuma daidai muke tun da yana da asali,ba za ku yarda in zabi na kasa da ni ba?”

(My translation.) “Marriage! I’ve told you all that I will only marry who I love. You know the world has changed. There is nothing to stop you from letting me have him. He is selfless and a gentleman. His family is as equal in honour as ours. We are alike in temperament, give me a reason why you would deny me someone who loves me?”

Hafsatu Abdulawheed’s So Aljanar Duniya (NNPC, 1980). Present reading.

Today I picked up a book by a much older friend of mine and caught the translation bug.

This is the opening paragraph (and my translation attempt) of Hajiya Hafsatu Abdulwaheed’s So Aljanar Duniya, one of the earliest Hausa language fictions by a woman. It was published in 1980 by NNPC, Zaria. Feedback on the translation is welcome.

Hajiya is my second mother, she’s mother to my law partner Asiya Ahmed. Also journalist Kadaria Ahmed’s mum.

It’s a delight to get to her story, this chronicle of love between a Fulani girl and an Arab she is in love with. The first paragraph draws me in.

Perhaps I will also natsu and work on a translation? The book is a novella really.

– Ra.

On Women

Hung out with a friend of mine, Xu, today.

Learned again how, when you meet a woman, you should hold off from thinking first how pretty or intelligent she is.

Think first instead of her scars and where she’s been, what she’s seen, and how she’s still here, glorious and thriving.

These women are more resilient than we are. Salute to these women especially.

– Ra.

On Self Reliance

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, from On Self Reliance.

I first read this essay in my teens, from something called The American Reader published by the United State Information Agency. It was my first introduction to America.

This essay, this part, has always given me something akin to goosebumps. Perhaps in my writing, I think, I shall someday touch the essence of Life in the way Emerson has done here? I think, if one manages this, how can it matter the things we are wrong about and the things we do wrong?

– Ra.

On Intimate Partner Violence

I was just on NTA Network Service’s Good Morning Nigeria show, alongside a cop, Saidat Musa, from the Police Gender Unit, with a psychiatrist in Benin, a criminologist in Kaduna and an NGO activist in Lagos linked in. The subject was “intimate partner violence” and I tried to give a legal-oriented view of it, tying in the nature of crime and its constituents. However, because of the limited time and the full house of panelists, there are two things I wanted to say which I had no time to.

In northern Nigeria, we have this saying “wa za aura bazawara?” It’s meant to be a wisdom and also rhetorical–who marries the divorcee, who dares marry a divorcee, who is foolish enough to marry a divorcee, why would anyone marry a divorcee? All captured in one four-word fatwa. This leads to the stigmatization of divorced women in our society, and I’m told this is common in other cultures and regions, nationwide. To avoid this stigma, women have put up with a lot of abuse and internalized a lot of violence. This is changing as more women fight back in several ways, including violence and psychological counter-abuse. All lead to misery. Intimate partner violence. We should stop stigmatizing women, especially, but men also increasingly, who escape from toxic relationships.

Related to this. I favor an all-of-society approach to this issue of intimate partner violence. The educational curriculum, the latest learning from psychology and psychiatry and criminology and sociological sciences, as well as law and criminal justice, need to be scaled into a cocktail of interventions that will prevent intimate partner violence and at the same time change perceptions and punish perpetrators.

Can’t recap all I did say (because I wasn’t listening to myself 😌 ) but this is in addition to what I said on air, and I felt to put this out there as well.

Sorry I failed to give a heads up on the program.

– Ra.