56 Years of Nigerian Literature: Balaraba Ramat Yakubu

by - 11:52

Photo of Balaraba Ramat Yakubu by Glenna Gordon via CNN

First up in my celebration of Nigerian women writers is Hajiya Balaraba Ramat Yakubu - said to be one of Northern Nigeria's most well-known writersOne of the first writers of 'soyayya' literature (Yakubu has also worked in Kannywood - Hausa-language film industry in Northern Nigeria as a writer/director/producer), Balarabat Ramat Yakubu has published nine novels and in 2012 became the first female Hausa-language author to be translated into English, when the Indian publisher Blaft published Yakubu's 1990 novel - Alhaki Kuykuyo Ne  (Sin is a Puppy that Follows You Home), translated from Hausa by Aliyu Kamal. 

On Sin is a PuppyCarmen McCain - Assistant Professor at Westmont College and expert on all things Hausa literature - writes:

The novel tells the story of Rabi, a woman married to a stingy, womanising businessman, Alhaji Abdu. Although she has nine children to take care of, her husband only gives her five naira a day to prepare their meals, while he spends over ten naira a day on restaurants and entertaining other women ... Rabi pays for school fees from the money she makes cooking and selling food and takes care of Alhaji Abdu's daughter from another marriage as if she were her own.  Alhaji Abdu's decision to marry an old prostitute as a second wife, however, brings Rabi's misery to a climax. When the women quarrel, Alhaji Abdu throws Rabi and her nine children out on the street. The rest of the novel traces the decisions Rabi makes in her newly independent life, her daughter Saudatu's marriage, and the continuing drama as Alhaji Abdu continues to alienate friends and family on behalf of his new ungrateful wife.  

Sin is a Puppy, however, wasn't Yakubu's first novel. Indeed, Graham Furniss writing on the significant role writers' clubs have played in the development of Hausa literature, discusses the Raina Kama (RK) 'Deceptive Appearances' writing club in Kano (the other writing clubs in the article include Kukan Kurciya [KK] 'The Cry of the Dove' also in Kano and Dan Hakin Da Ka Raina 'The Splinter You Ignore' in Kaduna). Raina Kama dates from the late 1980s, and Yakubu was one of the six leaders of the Raina Kama writing club (and the only woman).

As part of the Raina Kama club, Balaraba Ramat Yakubu's Budurwar Zuciya (The heart's desire) was published in 1987 and  Wa Zai Auri Jahila? (Who would marry an ignorant woman?) published in 1990. 

Part 1 and 2 of Wa Zai Auri Jahila? Covers via A Tunanina

A translation by Carmen McCain of Wa Zai Auri Jahila can be found in Glenna Gordon's Diagram of the Heart

Image via CNN

An excerpt of Sin is a Puppy can be read hereand it is also available on Worldreader mobile. Read more about Yakubu on Aljazeera giving Muslim Nigerian women a voice in fiction, on Publishing Perspectives on translating injustice into inspiration and this interview on Jaruma on how writing changed her life.  

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