Weekly Trust

Introducing Dr. Carmen McCain

This news has been long in coming, but I am delighted to finally be able to introduce myself to my readers as Dr. Carmen McCain, PhD. (Don’t worry I won’t pompously affix the title to my name every time I write, but for this week, I am celebrating!) This Tuesday, I successfully defended my PhD dissertation on what I call “the politics of exposure” in Hausa popular expression, in the Department of African Languages and Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I will take the rest of my column today to thank those friends and colleagues in Nigeria who have contributed so much to this project.

I am grateful to our former neighbor Professor Shamsudeen Amali who recommended that I attend his alma mater the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as it had one of the best African Studies programmes in the United States. He was right. It also has the only Department of African Languages and Literature in the country. I am proud to now (pending revisions and submission) be an alumna of the same institution from which so many of Nigeria’s leading academics graduated.
I am grateful to Professor Malami Buba at Usman dan Fodiyo University in Sokoto, who turned my attention towards Hausa literature and film. Since it was a requirement of the graduate programme at Wisconsin to have a working knowledge of an African language, I travelled to Sokoto in 2005 to learn advanced Hausa. I was planning to write about contemporary Nigerian writing in English. Hausa, which I already spoke “kadan’kadan,” was just going to be my ticket back to Nigeria. These plans changed when Professor Malami had me read novels out loud to him. The transition from homework to reading for pleasure came with Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino’s bestselling novel In da So da Kauna. After finishing my lesson, I went back to my room and kept reading, hungrily because I wanted to know what happened to the star-crossed lovers Sumayya and Muhammad. This is also when I started watching Hausa movies, wandering down muddy back roads every few days to a video shop, where I would rent the latest releases. The highlight of my summer was a trip to Kano, where I met the writers Ado Ahmad Gidan Dabino and Rahma Abdul Majid, filmmakers Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, Ahmad Alkanawy, and Nasir Gwangwazo, and the great scholar of Hausa popular culture Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, all of whom would be so helpful to me in future years.
I returned to Kano for three months in 2006 on an invitation from Professor Abdalla to do pre-dissertation research. At an Association of Nigerian Authors meeting, I met the now late Director Balarabe Sango, who took me to see gala shows and live comedy theatre in the open-air theatres outside of Marhaba cinema. In the business centre on Zoo Road where Director Sango spent so much of his time, I recognized Abbas Sadiq from his film Albashi, which I had bought the year before and on which I had written a paper that eventually became my first academic publication. Abbas introduced me to many other ‘yan Kannywood. I was star struck, and filled with equal parts excitement and embarrassment when Abbas and several others asked me to play bit parts in their films. I was quite bad, especially at the beginning, but they were kind, and I loved how performance stretched me in new ways.
After finishing up my coursework in Wisconsin, I returned to Kano in May of 2008 on the invitation of the Department of Mass Communication at Bayero University. Then Head of Department Professor Umar Faruk Jibril helped me acquire accommodations and asked me to help the department start a Hausa Home Video Resource Centre. Much of my work went into a blog for the centre. I also taught a 400-level Gender and Media class. I am so grateful for the support of my colleagues in the department during that time. Beyond the university, the Kannywood I found in 2008 was quite different from the one I had experienced in 2006. Because of the censorship crisis, which had begun in 2007, most filmmakers had moved their productions out of state, but films were still being edited in Kano, and the music industry was still flourishing. I spent much of my time in studios on Zoo Road, especially Golden Goose Studio, where I got to know the hip-hop artist and sound designer Nazir Ahmad Hausawa (aka Ziriums) and his brother singer Osama bin Music, singers DJ Yaks and Alfazazi Abdurahman, editor Sulaiman Abubakar, director Falalu Dorayi, novelist and scriptwriter Nazir Adam Salih, singers Suhaima and Aisha Golden Goose, actors Umar Gombe and the late Lawal Kaura, the director and makeup artist Baba Ali and so on.
I am also grateful to MOPPAN leaders at the time, Sani Mu’azu and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, who helped me in my research on the censorship crisis, and those who helped arrange and host my visits to film sets, including Abbas Sadiq, AGM Bashir, Aisha Halilu, Aminu Saira, Andy Amenechi, Ishaq Sidi Ishaq, Kenneth Gyang , Nafisa Abdullahi, Nasir Gwangwazo, and many others
In a film world dominated by men, I am also so grateful for the hospitality and feminine friendship I found in the homes of Sa’adatu Baba Ahmed, Maryam Aminu, Aisha Ahmad, Aisha Zakari, Ma’awa Suleiman, Zainab Ahmed, Fati Fagge, Lokya Joshua, Elsa Mere, and the motherly kindness given me by elder novelists Hajiya Balaraba Ramat Yakubu and Hafsat Abdulwahid, among others.
I have also been encouraged in my associations with journalists and writers like Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz, Abidemi Sanusi, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Alkasim Abdulkadir, Chikodili Emelumadu, Chinelo Onwualu, Elnathan John, Gimba Kakanda, Hajo Isa, Ibrahim Sheme, Molara Wood, Nkem Ivara, Richard Ali, Sa’adatu Baba Ahmad, and many, many others. I especially thank Abdulkareem Baba Aminu for inviting me to write this column, which has added so much fulfillment to my life. I also thank Tor Iorapuu, HOD of the Department ofTheatre and Film Arts, at the University of Jos. The department hosted me for the last couple of years as I hid away in Jos to write up my dissertation. I’m also indebted to Kanchana Ugbabe and Katrina Korb also of the University of Jos, who supplied me with quite a few guest columns whenever I had academic deadlines.
Starting to name people is dangerous because I don’t have the room to name everyone who was so helpful to me, but my scholarship and my writing in this column has and will continue to honour them.
After acknowledgements to my family and one of my oldest friends Ruth Gyuse, I have dedicated the dissertation to the memory of Martha Adive, one of my first Hausa teachers in Jos, without whose teaching my research would not be possible; Director Muhammadu Balarabe Sango, whose kind welcome to the world of Hausa theatre introduced me to the stories that have informed my dissertation; Professor Samuel Kafewo of Ahmadu Bello University, who contributed so much to Nigerian theatre and Nollywood Studies and so kindly hosted me in Zaria; and author Lami Yakubu, who trusted me to edit her stories, gothic fantasies that still haunt me. They live on.
As happy as I am personally this week, I also remember those more than 200 girls who are still in the clutches of terrorists. I mourn the many innocents who have been killed over the past four years by the Boko Haram insurgency. Terror has cast a shadow over the exciting film and literary productions I recorded in my dissertation. Most recently, I am shocked by reports of the shameless attack by purportedly hired thugs on women peacefully protesting in Abuja for the return of the abducted girls. Surely if we hope to defeat terrorism, we must stand together, all of us, in this struggle. Second only in shame to Boko Haram are those who would use this opportunity for political or economic gain and attempt to shut down those who tirelessly and peacefully remind the nation that our girls are still missing.

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