LOCATION: Hausaland in West Africa (northwestern Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger)
POPULATION: 22 million
LANGUAGE: Hausa, Arabic,French or English
RELIGION: Islam, small native cults
RELATED ARTICLES: Vol. 1: Nigerians; Nigeriens
The Hausa are the largest ethnic group of West Africa, with a population of some 22 million, with another wider regional 15 million bilingual speakers of Hausa from northern Cameroon to northern Ivory Coast. Because of their wide geographical distribution and intermarriage and interaction with different peoples, the Hausa are a heterogeneous people, with a variety of cultural and physical features as well as diverse histories.
The Hausa generally recognize a common origin. They acknowledge a common mythical ancestor (Bayajidda) who, according to tradition, migrated from Baghdad in the 9th or 10th century ad. Along the way, he stopped at the kingdom of Bornu (now in northeast Nigeria) and married the daughter of the king, but was forced to leave her behind. He then fled west and helped the king of Daura slay a snake that was depriving his people of water, and he was given the Queen of Daura in marriage as a reward. Bayajidda succeeded as the king of Daura, and his son, Bawo, who founded the city of Biram, had six sons who became the rulers of other Hausa city-states. Collectively, these are known as the Hausa bakwai (“Hausa seven”) and include Kano, Katsina, Rano, Zazzau, Daura, Gobir, and Biram. Bayajidda is said to have borne another son with a concubine, and this son fathered seven other children. Each established city-states far away from Daura, which became known as the banza bakwai (“bastard seven”). They include Kebbi, Zamfara, Gwari, Jukun, Yoruba, Nupe, and Yauri. Thus, by the 15th century, a number of relatively independent city states had emerged, which competed with each other for control of trans-Saharan trade, slaves, and natural resources. From that point, the various city-states trace their history independently of each other, each with its lists of kings who have ruled since that time.
During the 19th century, Hausaland was unified during an Islamic holy war (jihad) led by a Fulani scholar, Usman d'an Fodio. (Islam had arrived in the area by the 14th century.) The jihad sought to correct the impure ways of the Hausa Muslims and convert those who were still “pagans.” All of the land of the Hausa (k'asar Hausa) and some other territories were united under the rule of d'an Fodio, and later his sons. They directed political and religious affairs in the land from the capital at Sokoto until the British arrived and colonized the area in about 1900. Even during colonial times, the city-states and their leaders maintained some authority and autonomy, and many Hausa traditions and customs have been preserved until recently.
Among the Hausa origin myths, the snake, water, and western migration themes have been alleged to link the Hausa with ancient Meroe on the Nile. Hausa communities outside of Hausa-land are commonly known as zongos. Hausa communities in the 15th and 16th centuries found themselves in a regional power vacuum with the decline of Bornu-Kanem to the east, Songhai to the west, and being restrained by the northerly Berbers and the long-standing southward migration of the Sahara. The Kano Chronicle provides a significant historical record to the Hausa and Fulani people. While there are important aspects of collaboration between these two groups, generally one can say that the 18th century Fulani jihads put the Hausa in a relatively subordinate position.
LOCATION AND HOMELAND
Hausa peoples are concentrated mainly in north central Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger, an area that is predominantly semi-arid grassland or savanna. Hausaland consists of a number of large cities surrounded by rural agrarian communities that grow mainly millet, maize, and sorghum during the region's 4- to 5-month rainy season. The cities are among the greatest commercial centers of sub-Saharan Africa. Hausa peoples are found dispersed throughout West Africa, Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Benin, Burkina Fasso, and Ghana. Some are found as far away as Sudan and Congo Republic. They have settled permanently or temporarily in these locations as traders.
Hausa is the most widely spoken language in West Africa. It is spoken by an estimated 22 million native speakers, plus an additional 17 million second-language speakers. The Hausa language, from which these people take their name, belongs to the Chadic sub-branch of Afro-Asiatic language family of Africa, which has strong affinities to Arabic in the north. Perhaps one-fourth of the Hausa vocabulary derives from Arabic, and more recently terms from Fulfulde (seeFulani ) and Kanuri languages, as well as English, have been incorporated. Many Hausa can read and write Arabic, and many can also speak either French or English. There are five main dialects of Hausa in northern Nigeria, in addition to variations on the language in the Hausa diaspora in such places as Ghana, Benin, and Togo.
The Hausa have a rich system of folklore, some of which has been influenced by the Islamic religion. The system includes stories (tatsunya)—of animals, men and women, young men and maidens, and heroes and villains—which usually have a moral. Many include proverbs and riddles to help convey a message to the audience, which is often comprised of children. The stories sometimes involve a trickster who appears as a spider and demonstrates both cunning and greed. Hausa folklore also includes exaggerated stories or traditions (labaru) of important figures or events in the Hausa past (such as battles or notable rulers). In these, folklore merges with history. The Hausa origin myth includes Bayajidda the serpent slayer who was rewarded by marriage the Queen of Daura, who, in turn, had the founding sons of the Hausa's seven original towns.
Since the penetration of Islam into Hausaland in the mid-14th century, most Hausa have become extremely devoted to the Islamic faith. Muslims believe in Allah and Mohammed as his prophet. They pray five times each day, read the holy scriptures, fast during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and aspire to make the pilgrimage (hajj) to the Muslim holyland in Mecca. The religion affects nearly all aspects of Hausa behavior, including their dress, art, house types, rites of passage, and laws. In the rural areas, there are still a few communities of peoples who do not follow Islam. These people are referred to as Maguzawa, and they worship nature spirits known as bori or iskoki.
The Hausa are Sunni Muslims, but are also influenced by the Muslim brotherhoods that are widespread across the Sahel as well as other syncretic African beliefs and practices. Some Hausa, known as maguzawa, tend more toward non-Islamic African beliefs. Bori cults are built around spirit possession and exorcism and are especially attractive to women and marginalized peoples.
The Hausa annual cycle follows the Islamic calendar. Feast days (Id) take place following the month of fasting (Ramadan), following the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj), and on the birthday of the prophet Mohammed. At this time, families usually sacrifice a ram in thanksgiving, celebrate with their relatives and friends, and give each other gifts. Hausa also observe the national holidays of Nigeria.
RITES OF PASSAGE
About a week after a child is born, it achieves personhood when it is given a name during an Islamic naming ceremony. Boys are usually circumcised at around the age of seven, although there is no rite of passage associated with this. At around this same age, both boys and girls study the Qu'ranic scripture, which they must learn by the age of 13.
In their mid- to late teens, young men and women may become betrothed in marriage. The marriage ceremony may take place over several days, first among the bride and her family and friends, when she is prepared for marriage. Male representatives of the bride's and the groom's families contract the marriage according to Islamic law, usually at the mosque. Shortly thereafter, the couple will be brought together, often with a small celebration.
Upon the death of an individual, Islamic principles for burial are always followed. The deceased is washed, prepared for burial, wrapped in a shroud, and buried facing eastward toward the Islamic holyland of Mecca. Prayers are recited, and family members receive condolences. Wives mourn their deceased husbands for about three months.
In contrast to some other Nigerian peoples, Hausa tend to be quiet and reserved. This may be due to the influence of Islam and their close association with Fulani (Fulbe) peoples, who are known for extreme reserve and shyness. Thus, when Hausa interact with other, unrelated peoples or strangers, they tend to exercise restraint and not show emotions. Likewise, when a Hausa interacts with certain kin (such as senior siblings, in-laws, or one's spouse or parents), reserve and respect must be shown. This may entail, for instance, not uttering the name of one's spouse or parents or talking quietly. In-laws or co-wives may be avoided altogether. To the Hausa, this is a demonstration of respect. By contrast, relaxed, lively, affectionate, and at times playful relations exist among certain other kin such as junior siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren, or among cousins.
There are no formal age groups among the Hausa. From an early age, however, children develop friendships with their neighbors that may last a lifetime. In some towns, youths may form associations whose members play or dance together until they marry.
Hausa reside in both rural and urban areas. In the rural villages, they usually live in large households (gidaje), which are inhabited by a man, his wives, his sons, and their wives and children.
In large cities, such as Kano or Katsina, most Hausa live in the old sections of town or in newer quarters built for civil servants. Many non-Hausa (particularly Yoruba, Igbo, Nupe, and Kanuri) have moved to these cities and occupy what are called “stranger quarters” (sabon gari). Hausa housing ranges from traditional extended family compounds (inhabited by a male, his wives, and his sons and their families) to relatively modern, single-family houses in new sections of cities or government residential areas.
In rural areas, most people get around on foot or bicycle, but they use public transport (buses, taxis) when traveling long distances. Hausa cities have public transportation, and many residents have cars.
Modern health care is available throughout Hausaland, except in remote villages. People can seek medical help in clinics and hospitals, although there is sometimes a shortage of medicine. Some people also consult traditional healers who administer local remedies (magani), many of which prove very effective.
Northern Nigeria is relatively underdeveloped; the Hausa are facing various difficulties of finding adequate employment in the modern sectors of the economy that require new educational and technical skills.
As throughout Africa, family life is extremely important among the Hausa. Ties of kinship are elaborate, particularly through the male line, and relatives cooperate in economic activities such as farming and trading in the rural areas or in business activities in the urban areas. Kin aspire to live near each other to socialize and provide mutual support. They also contract marriages for junior members, who ideally are related (i.e., cousins). Under Islamic law, a man may marry up to four wives. Principles of kinship and descent are most elaborate among the aristocratic Hausa of Fulani descent, who trace their ancestry back to the time of the jihad in the 19th century. These people are known as Hausa-Fulani.
Most married Hausa women observe seclusion; they stay in the home and only go out for ceremonies or to seek medical treatment. A few can go out to their place of work. When they do go out, they should be modestly dressed (i.e., with a veil) and are often escorted by children.
Hausa generally do not recognize themselves politically as one unit but rather identify with the individual Hausa “states” that have persisted from earlier times. Each state has an emir (Sarki) who is flanked by a council (majalisa). States as territories are divided into districts, which are administered by government and local officials. Lastly, village chiefs and ward heads control affairs of villages or sections of cities.
Hausa men are recognizable throughout West Africa by their elaborate dress. Many wear large, flowing gowns (gare, babban gida) with elaborate embroidery around the neck and sometimes down the front. They also wear colorful embroidered caps (huluna). Hausa women, like women of neighboring groups, wear a wrapper made of colorful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie, and shawl. Some of these cloths are extremely expensive, and women collect them, together with gold jewelry, as a sign of status and wealth.
The Hausa eat a variety of foods that derive from their predominately agricultural livelihood. Their staples consist of grains, namely sorghum and millet, together with maize, which are ground into flour for a variety of foods. Rice may also be used as a staple. Breakfast often consists of porridge and sometimes cakes made of fried beans (kosai) or wheat flour (funkaso). Lunch and dinner usually include a heavy porridge (tuwo) that is served with a soup or stew (miya), and dinner is the main meal. Most soups are made with a base of ground or chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers. To this are added other vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, okra, and other leafy vegetables, and spices that are found locally. Small quantities of meat are used, and beans, peanuts, and milk may also add protein to Hausa diets. Milk products are obtained from the pastoral Fulani (Fulbe) peoples. Nowadays, as many Hausa women engage in the trade of cooked foodstuff, many families or individuals purchase snacks or meals outside the household as needed.
From birth, Hausa children are socialized in the household by their relatives, especially women, through imitation, scolding, reciting sayings and proverbs, and storytelling. From about the age of six, they attend Islamic (Qu'ranic) school and learn to recite the scriptures and learn about the practices, teachings, and morals of Islam. By the time they reach adulthood, many achieve high levels of Islamic scholarship.
Western education was established in Hausaland during the early 20th century. Children began attending schools built by the British Colonial government, first at the primary level, and then at the secondary level. One of the first and finest universities in all of Africa, Ahmadu Bello University, was founded in Zaria in the 1940s. Since Nigeria received its independence in 1960, many schools and universities have been built by the Nigerian government, and a majority of Hausa children, especially in urban areas, are now able to attend school, at least to the primary level.
Culture (al-ada) is one of several features that distinguish a Hausa person from members of other ethnic groups, in addition to his origin (asali), his adherence to the Islamic religion (addini), and his mastering the Hausa tongue (yare). Hausa culture includes the Hausa mode of dressing, particularly the big gown and cap, along with several other customs, such as dancing and marriage ceremonies. The Hausa also identify closely with their music, particularly that of the praise-singers who sing about community histories, leaders, and prominent individuals. Hausa culture also includes individual character, known as mutumci or hali. In their personal dealings, Hausa seek to strike a balance between being assertive and being thrifty, which benefits them in their business dealings, and having a strong sense of shame (kunya) and respect among strangers as well as kin.
Hausa society has a strong division of labor according to age and sex. The predominant activities are trade, especially in the towns, and agriculture in the rural areas. Hausa women, although they are usually secluded (except at harvest time in the rural areas), have occupational specialties, including processing, cooking, and selling foods. They also sell cloth weavings, pots, medicines, vegetable oils, and other small items. They do so with the help of their children or servants, who go to other houses or the market on their behalf.
Male children help their fathers with farming; young girls help their mothers around the house, care for the younger children, or go out and trade. Recently, some of the women's trading activities have declined as children have been enrolling in school during the hours their mothers need help.
Many Hausa men have more than one occupation. In rural areas, they farm and also engage in trade or craftsmanship. They grow food crops and cash crops such as cotton and peanuts. In the towns and cities, they may have formal jobs, such as teaching or government work, which they may supplement with trade. Some individuals are full-time traders with shops or market stalls, while others engage in long-distance trade of cattle and skins to other parts of Nigeria or to neighboring countries. Many Hausa are full-time Islamic scholars.
Both wrestling (kokawa) and boxing (dambe) have been popular sports among the Hausa. Wrestlers and boxers form distinct groups in Hausa communities, until recently being defined by distinctive dress and hairstyles. Children at a young age become apprentices of more experienced individuals. Eventually they participate in the competitions. For entertainment or on religious holidays, people are summoned to arenas or markets for the matches. Music, particularly drumming, accompanies the competition. Magical potions or charms (magani) are used to enhance the performance. Both boxers and wrestlers wear special loincloths during the competitions, and the boxers also wear special bracelets and a cloth wrapped around one hand, which serves as a boxing glove. During a match, a wrestler will choose an opponent and the two will wrestle until one is thrown to the ground. Boxers fight until one is either brought to his knees or falls flat on the ground.
More recently, other sports have been introduced into Hausaland. In particular, horseracing and polo are found among the nobility. Soccer is popular among practically everyone, and it is now considered Nigeria's national sport.
ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION
From a young age, Hausa children participate in dances, particularly when they meet in the market. Storytelling, local dramas, and musical performances have also been common forms of entertainment until recently. Musicians perform at various festivities such as weddings, naming ceremonies, and parties, as well as during Islamic holidays. Today, Western forms of entertainment are popular. Western music, including rap and reggae, are common, as are television programs imported from the United States and England. Nowadays, one often finds stereos, televisions, and VCRs in the homes of Hausa people, airing a mix of traditional Hausa entertainment and that of the West.
FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES
Among the Hausa, music and art form an important part of culture and everyday life. Work songs often accompany activities in the rural areas or in the markets. Court music (drumming, horns, flutes) and praise-singing are found among those in towns, especially among the nobility. Some of the Hausa praise-singers (marok'i) have achieved national prominence.
Hausa are well-known for their craftsmanship. There are tanners, leatherworkers, weavers, carvers and sculptors, iron-workers and blacksmiths, silver workers, potters, dyers, tailors, embroiderers, and so on. Their wares (such as jewelry, hats, cloth, and utensils) are sold in the markets throughout Hausa-land and in much of West Africa. North African, Islamic forms and motifs have influenced much of Hausa art, design, and architecture, which includes Arabic characters and geometric designs.
Problems and hardships among the Hausa today are caused by the physical and political environment in which they live. Geographically, most of Hausaland is in the northern savanna and Sahel zones near the Sahara desert, which are prone to drought. Crops fail if rainfall is not timely or sufficient. Most people do not have the means to purchase the necessary foodstuffs and may suffer during harsh weather. Some must migrate to the cities in search of work.
Since gaining its independence, Nigeria has also witnessed a host of problems associated with managing the new country and its government. Political instability, military dictatorships, corruption, and lack of unity among Nigeria's more than 200 ethnic groups are among the many problems that have plagued the country. Even though Nigeria is one of the world's largest suppliers of oil, much of the wealth has not been properly invested in economic and social development.
Consequently, among the Hausa, as among all other peoples of Nigeria, poverty is widespread. Its manifestations include poor nutrition and diet, illness and insufficient health care, inadequate educational opportunities, and a relatively low standard of living in contrast with much of the Western world. Nevertheless, the richness of Hausa culture and society offsets many of these hardships, and there is reason for optimism that living conditions will gradually improve as the people of Nigeria gain more experience as citizens of the new nation.
In short, the central problems in Hausaland remain practical issues of employment and social services, while the main cultural and religious issues rest in the torque between conservative Islamic values in a modern federal African nation.
In all Islamic societies the position of women has certain specific cultural and religious expectations requiring modesty and domestic functions. In this context the stresses of modern life have caused both changes and threats to this long established cultural order. In northern Nigeria in particular the tension between a secular federal state and local provincial autonomy has been very contentious at times. Among the issues was the case of Amina Lawal who was charged with adultery and was sentenced to death by stoning according to a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. This was never carried out but was a difficult issue of the federal government along with parallel cultural issues regarding a Nigerian beauty contest. On the other hand the legendary Hausa Queen Aminatu is noted for her military prowess and is much celebrated, but even her role is disputed by some theologians and historians.
Coles, Catherine, and Beverly Mack. Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
Koslow, Philip. Hausaland: The Fortress Kingdoms. Kingdoms of Africa. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.
Smith, M. G. “The Hausa of Northern Nigeria.” In Paul Gibbs, ed., Peoples of Africa. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1965.
—revised by R. Lobban
ETHNONYMS: Afnu (the Kanuri term) or Afunu; Ama or Azna, Bunjawa, Maguzawa (non-Muslims); Aussa, Haoussa, al Hausin
Identification. The Hausa constitute the largest ethnic group in West Africa. The term "Hausa" actually refers to the language and, by extension, to its native speakers, of whom there are about 25 million.
Location. The Hausa are scattered across the savanna of northern Nigeria, the adjacent area of Niger, and, as a result of extensive migration, in enclaves in various African cities as far south as the Atlantic coast. The focal homeland covers an area about 640 kilometers wide, from Lake Chad to the east to the Niger River in the west. It extends from 11o to 14° N and from about 2° to 14° E. The annual rainfall ranges from about 50 centimeters in the north to 100 centimeters in the south.
Demography. There are approximately 22.5 million Hausa in West Africa. According to the last census, carried out in 1963, 80 percent of the Hausa are rural, 20 percent urban. Even with the tremendous urbanization of the 1970s and 1980s, economic problems have led to return migrations to the countryside. Thus, the 80:20 ratio may still stand. Among the Hausa, there is high infant mortality. If a child survives his or her first two years, he or she will probably live to age 50. Risk decreases until one reaches middle age, but many Hausa survive into their 70s and 80s.
Linguistic Affiliation. A Chadic language, Hausa is related to Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, and other Afroasiatic Family members. Proper tone and stress are imperative. Hausa, which was originally written in Arabic script, has a centuries-old literary tradition, but it is also the language of trade and, next to Swahili, is the most widely spoken African language.
History and Cultural Relations
Hausa history is one of immigration and conquest. The Hausa nation has evolved from the incorporation over hundreds of years of many different peoples who joined the original stock. They are united by a common language and adherence to a common religion, Islam. According to tradition, the Hausa people derive from the Hausa bakwai, the "true" seven states, of which Daura (named after its female founder) is considered the most senior. In the myth of origin, Bayajidda, the son of the king of Baghdad, arrived in Daura via Bornu. He killed the snake that occupied the well, impeding the townspeople's access to the water. As a reward, Bayajidda married the queen. Their son Bawo was the progenitor of six sons, thereby founding six states—Daura, Katsina, Zazzau (Zaria), Gobir, Kano, and Rano. Bayajidda's son by his first wife, Magira (a Kanuri woman), founded Biram, the seventh state.
In fact, it is not known when the movement of peoples actually occurred; neither has the migrants' place of origin been pinpointed. The seven Habe kingdoms were formed by a coalescence of strangers with local folk. The emergence of states in Hausaland was apparently associated with the establishment of capital cities as centers of power. They were different from earlier settlements in that they were cosmopolitan, fortified, and each the seat of a king who was recognized as the superior power throughout the surrounding area.
Before 1804, Habe kings ruled over Hausaland; following 1804, the Fulani took over, and by mid-century the Hausa were stratified into three tiers: the hereditary ruling Fulani, the appointive ruling class dominated by Fulani, and the Habe commoners.
Hausa relations with others are considerable, because of their extensive involvement with trade and Islam. There is considerable exchange with the Kanuri to the east, the nomadic Tuareg, and southern Nigerians (Igbo, Yoruba); in their diaspora settlements, other ethnic groups that share their cultural orientation, such as the Wangara, the Zabarama, the Adar, the Nupe, are often lumped together with them as "Hausa."
The Hausa classify their settlements as cities, towns, or hamlets. The cities have wards for foreigners, including Tuareg, Arabs, Nupe, Kanuri, and others. The capital cities are walled, and residents live in walled compounds with interior courtyards. Those of the well-to-do are whitewashed and decorated with plaster arabesques. The women's quarters are separate. Urban compounds may house sixty to a hundred persons. Although the Hausa accord urban living the most prestige, they are primarily rural. Each village contains a capital, as well as several hamlets; the capital is divided into wards, housing families of the same occupational group. Traditional village compounds are walled or fenced; materials range from baked clay to mud or cornstalks. Compounds characteristically contain an entrance hut, an open shared cooking and work area, a hut for the compound head, and separate huts for each of his wives. Newer housing is rectangular and concrete. The number of people living in a rural compound ranges from one to thirty, the average being ten.
Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Agriculture is the main economic activity. Grain is the staple diet, including Guinea corn, millet, maize, and rice. The Hausa also grow and eat root crops and a variety of vegetables. Cotton and peanuts are processed and used locally, but part of the harvest is exported. The Hausa practice intercropping and double-cropping; their main implement is the hoe. The Cattle Fulani provide the Hausa with meat, yogurt, and butter.
Most men also practice a second occupation; ascriptive and ranked, these include aristocratic officeholder, scholar, Islamic cleric (imam), artisan, trader, musician, and butcher. As good Muslims, the urban women are in seclusion (rural women much less so), and therefore dependent upon their husbands for their maintenance; they are economically active from behind the compound walls, however, primarily in order to finance their daughters' dowries. Their work, which includes sewing and selling prepared food and jewelry, is an offshoot of their domestic persona.
Industrial Arts. There are full-time specialists only where there is an assured market for craft products. Men's crafts include tanning, leatherworking, saddling, weaving, dying, woodworking, and smithing. Iron has been mined, smelted, and worked as far back as there are Hausa traditions. Blacksmiths have a guildlike organization, and many are hereditary.
Trade. Trade is complicated and varied. Some traders deal in a particular market, as distinguished from those who trade in many markets over a long distance. This dual trade strategy, augmented by the contributions of the Cattle Fulani, enabled the Hausa to meet all of their requirements, even during the nineteenth century. The markets are traditional to Hausa society and carry social as well as economic significance; male friends and relatives meet there, and well-dressed marriageable young women pass through, to see and be seen. The Hausa differentiate rural from urban settlements in terms of the size and frequency of the markets.
There is also customary exchange that takes place outside of the market. Gift exchanges are practiced at life-cycle celebrations such as childbirth, naming, marriage, and death; other exchanges are framed by religion (alms, tithes, fixed festivals) and politics (expressing relations of patronage/clientage).
Division of Labor. Hausa society traditionally observes several divisions of labor: in public administration, it is primarily men who may be appointed, although some women hold appointed positions in the palace. Class determines what sort of work one might do, and gender determines work roles. When women engage in income-producing activities, they may keep what they earn. Because of purdah, many women who trade are dependent upon children to act as their runners.
Land Tenure. The rural householder farms with his sons' help; from the old farm, he allocates to them small plots, which he enlarges as they mature. New family fields are cleared from the bush.
Kin Groups and Descent. Although the domestic group is based on agnatic ties, and even as Hausa society is patriarchal, descent is basically bilateral; only the political aristocracy and urban intelligentsia observe strict patrilineality, everyone else practicing bilaterality.
Kinship Terminology. Hausa kinship terminology cannot be classified according to standard anthropological categories because of the number of alternative usages. For example, a man's siblings and his parallel or cross cousins are called 'yanuwa (children of my mother); cross cousins, however, are also referred to and addressed as abokan wasa (joking relations), and special terms distinguishing elder and younger brother and sister may also be applied to both parallel and cross cousins.
Marriage. Adult Hausa society is essentially totally married. Ideal marriage is virilocal/patrilocal, and it is polygynous: a man is allowed up to four wives at a time. The term in Hausa for co-wife is kishiya, from the word for "jealousy," often but not always descriptive of co-wife relations. Once men begin to marry, they are rarely single despite divorce because most are polygynous; nearly 50 percent of the women are divorced at some point, but there is such pressure to be married and have children that they tend not to stay unmarried long. Important social distinctions identify women in terms of their marital status. By custom, girls marry at the age of 12 to 14. There is some disagreement in the literature regarding the respectful nature of singlehood. Divorce is a regular occurrence, not surprisingly, given the brittle and formal relationship between spouses. Both men and women have a right to divorce, but for men it is easier. After divorce, most weaned children are claimed by their father.
Marriage is marked by bride-price, given by the groom's family to the bride, and a dowry for the bride provided by her family. Marriage is classified according to the degree of wife seclusion and according to whether it is a kin or nonkin union. Bilateral cross-cousin marriage is preferred.
Domestic Unit. The ideal household is the agnatically based gandu (family farm), formed by a man with his sons and their wives and children. After the senior male's death, the brothers may stay on together for a time. More frequently, each brother's household becomes a separate economic unit.
Inheritance. Consistent with Islamic practice, a woman can own and inherit in her own right, but her inheritance rights are subordinate to those of men. All of the wives married to a man at the time of his death are entitled, together with their children, to share one-quarter of his total estate if there are no agnatic descendants, or one-eighth of his estate if there are agnatic descendants. Women own property such as houses and land together with consanguines, even after marriage, and they inherit only half as much as their brothers.
Succession to leadership of the agnatic group and leadership of the compound is collateral. Farmland is inherited in the male line, the gandu being collectively owned by brothers.
Socialization. Women observe a postpartum taboo on sexual intercourse for a year and a half to two years, during which time the child is breast-fed. Toddlers are weaned onto soft foods and then to the standard diet. An older sister carries the infant on her back when the mother is busy, which extends into a special attachment between an adult man and his elder sister.
From infancy, boys and girls are treated differently. Boys are preferred; as they age, they learn that they are superior to girls and consequently to distance themselves from them and identify with things masculine. It is imperative for boys to separate from their mothers. Girls are trained to self-identify in terms of their sex role: domestic (female) skills are taught to young women as they mature. They are admonished to be submissive and subordinate to males. As children, boys and girls are rigidly sex-stereotyped into appropriate behavior.
Social Organization. One of the most salient principles in Hausa society is the segregation of adults according to gender. Throughout Hausaland, seclusion of married women is normative, and the extradomestic impact of sexual segregation and stratification is that women are legal, political, and religious minors and the economic wards of men. Although women are central to kinship matters, they are excluded from extradomestic discussion and decision making. Both within the household and in the public domain, patriarchal authority is dominant and reinforced by spatial separation of the sexes.
The senior wife of the compound head, the mai gida, is the uwar gida. She may settle minor disputes among residents and give advice and aid to the younger women. Domestic authority rests with the male head of compound/household.
From childhood, males and females develop bond friendships with members of the same sex, a practice continued into adulthood and marked by reciprocal exchanges. Given their seclusion, women tend to formalize their bond ties more than men do. Formal relationships that emphasize differences in status (patron/client) are also established by women, as they are by men.
Political Organization. Organizational structure is hierarchic; the centralized kingdoms, known as emirates, are the primary groupings; districts are secondary and village areas tertiary.
The institutions of kinship, clientship, and office (and, in the past, slavery) in the emirates, have provided the fundamentals of Hausa government from the sixteenth century until the middle part of the twentieth century. Rank regulates relations between commoners and rulers.
"Traditional and modern government proceeds through a system of titled offices . . . , each of which is in theory a unique indissoluble legal corporation having definite rights, powers and duties, special relations to the throne and to certain other offices, special lands, farms, compounds, horses, praise songs, clients, and, formerly, slaves" (Smith 1965, 132). In most states, major offices are traditionally distributed among descent groups, so that rank and lineage intertwine. The traditional offices differed in rewards, power, and function, and were territorially based with attendant obligations and duties. Within communities, the various occupational groups distribute titles, which duplicate the ranks of the central political system.
Clientship links men of unequal status, position, and wealth. It is a relationship of mutual benefit, whereby the client gains advice in his affairs at the minimum and protection, food, and shelter at the maximum. The patron can call upon the client to serve as his retainer.
In applying his notion of government to Kano, the Fulani religious and political leader Usman dan Fodio, when he launched his successful jihad against the king of Gobir in 1804, he followed the basic premise of a theocracy within a legalistic framework; government, and its chief agent, the emir, were perceived as an instrument of Allah.
Social Control. Legal affairs fall under the jurisdiction of the emir, and he is guided by Islamic law. The Quran, the word of Allah, and its hadith, the traditions of the Prophet Mohammed, along with the dictates of secular reasoning provide answers to legal questions. The Sharia, the canon law of Islam, is fundamentally a code of obligations, a guide to ethics. Sanctions of shame and ostracism compel conformity to Hausa and Islamic custom.
Conflict. When disputes arise, the Hausa may opt to go to court, submit to mediation, or leave it to Allah. The basic process involves deference to mediation by elders.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. About 90 percent of the Hausa are Muslims. "The traditional Hausa way of life and Islamic social values have been intermixed for such a long time that many of the basic tenets of Hausa society are Islamic" (Adamu 1978, 9). Islam has been carried throughout West Africa by Hausa traders.
Adherents are expected to observe the five pillars of Islam—profession of the faith, five daily prayers, alms giving, fasting at Ramadan, and at least one pilgrimage to Mecca (the hajj). Within Hausa society, there are sects (brotherhoods) of adherents; of these, the Tijaniya, Qadriya, and Ahmadiyya have been important. Wife seclusion is basic to the Hausa version of Islam, although it is believed that the institution is more a sign of status than of religious piety.
Even among some Muslims, as among the Maguzawa pagans, spirit cults persist. One, the Bori, has more female than male adepts; cultists are believed to be possessed by particular spirits within the Bori pantheon.
Religious Practitioners. Although such personnel as imams and teachers (mallamai; sing. mallam ) have no churchly functions or spiritual authority, they do tend to assume or accept some measure of spiritual authority in certain contexts.
Ceremonies. Men are enjoined to attend Friday prayers at the mosque. Men and women celebrate the three main annual festivals of Ramadan, Id il Fitr, and Sallah. Life-cycle events—birth, puberty, marriage, death—are also marked.
Arts. The arts are limited to those forms allowed by Islam; the Hausa use Islamic design in their architecture, pottery, cloth, leather, and weaving. Music is an integral part of Hausa life and can be classified in terms of function and audience: for royalty, for dancing pleasure, and for professional guilds. Each category has its own instruments, which include drums as well as string and wind instruments. Poetry exists in an oral tradition, as practiced by the praise singers and the oral historians, and also in the written tradition of the learned.
Medicine. There is a tricultural system that consists of strong traditional roots set in the framework of a predominantly Islamic mode, now augmented by Western medicine. The Bori spirit-possession cult is relied upon for various kinds of curing, and this involves diagnosing the particular spirit giving the sick person trouble.
Death and Afterlife. Burial is in the Islamic manner. Upon death, the individual passes on into the realm of heaven (paradise) or hell, consistent with Islamic teaching.
Adamu, Mahdi (1978). The Hausa Factor in West African History. London: Oxford University Press.
Coles, Catherine, and Beverly Mack, eds. (1991). Women in Twentieth Century Hausa Society. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Hill, Polly (1972). Rural Hausa: A Village and a Setting. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, M. G. (1965). "The Hausa of Northern Nigeria." In Peoples of Africa, edited by James L. Gibbs, Jr., 119-155. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
POPULATION: More than 20 million
LANGUAGE: Hausa; Arabic; French or English
RELIGION: Islam; native cults
1 • INTRODUCTION
The Hausa, numbering more than 20 million, are the largest ethnic group in west Africa. They are widely distributed geographically and have intermingled with many different peoples.
Islam arrived in the area by the fourteenth century. By the fifteenth century, there were a number of independent Hausa city-states. They competed with each other for control of trade across the Sahara Desert, slaves, and natural resources. In the nineteenth century, the region was unified by a jihad (Islamic holy war) and became known as Hausaland. The British arrived and colonized the area in about 1900. Even during colonial times, the city-states and their leaders maintained some autonomy. Many Hausa traditions were preserved until late in the twentieth century.
2 • LOCATION
The Hausa people are concentrated mainly in northwestern Nigeria and in adjoining southern Niger. This area is mostly semiarid grassland or savanna, dotted with cities surrounded by farming communities. The cities of this region—Kano, Sokoto, Zari, and Katsina, for example—are among the greatest commercial centers of sub-Saharan Africa (Africa south of the Sahara Desert). Hausa people are also found living in other countries of west Africa like Cameroon, Togo, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Ghana.
3 • LANGUAGE
Hausa is the most widely spoken language in west Africa. It is spoken by an estimated 22 million people. Another 17 million people speak Hausa as a second language. Hausa is written in Arabic characters, and about one-fourth of Hausa words come from Arabic. Many Hausa can read and write Arabic. Many can also speak either French or English.
4 • FOLKLORE
According to tradition, Bayajidda, the mythical ancestor of the Hausa, migrated from Baghdad in the ninth or tenth century ad. After stopping at the kingdom of Bornu, he fled west and helped the king of Daura slay a dangerous snake. As a reward, he was given the Queen of Daura in marriage. Bayajidda's son, Bawo, founded the city of Biram. He had six sons who became the rulers of other Hausa city-states. Collectively, these are known as the Hausa bakwai (Hausa seven).
Hausa folklore includes tatsunya— stories that usually have a moral. They involve animals, young men and maidens, and heroes and villains. Many include proverbs and riddles.
5 • RELIGION
Most Hausa are devout Muslims who believe in Allah and in Muhammad as his prophet. They pray five times each day, read the Koran (holy scriptures), fast during the month of Ramadan, give alms to the poor, and aspire to make the pilgrimage (hajj) to the Muslim holy land in Mecca. Islam affects nearly all aspects of Hausa behavior, including dress, art, housing, rites of passage, and laws. In the rural areas, there are communities of peoples who do not follow Islam. These people are called Maguzawa. They worship nature spirits known as bori or iskoki.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
The Hausa observe the holy days of the Islamic calendar. Eid (Muslim feast days) celebrate the end of Ramadan (month of fasting), follow a hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and celebrate the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. On Eid al-Adha, Muslims sacrifice an animal to reenact the time Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son to God. Families also slaughter an animal in their own homes. This may be a male sheep or cow. People then celebrate with their relatives and friends and give each other gifts.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
About a week after a child is born, it is given a name during an Islamic naming ceremony. Boys are usually circumcised at around the age of seven, but there is no special rite associated with this.
In their mid-to late teens, young men and women may become engaged. The marriage ceremony may take as long as several days. Celebrations begin among the bride and her family and friends as she is prepared for marriage. Male representatives of the bride's and the groom's families sign the marriage contract according to Islamic law, usually at the mosque. Shortly thereafter, the couple is brought together.
Following a death, Islamic burial principles are always followed. The deceased is washed, wrapped in a shroud, and buried facing eastward—toward the holy land of Mecca. Prayers are recited, and family members receive condolences. Wives mourn their deceased husbands for about three months.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
Hausa tend to be quiet and reserved. When they interact with outsiders, they generally do not show emotion. There are also some customs that govern interaction with one's relatives. For example, it is considered a sign of respect not to say the name of one's spouse or parents. By contrast, relaxed, playful relations are the norm with certain relatives, such as younger siblings, grandparents, and cousins.
From an early age, children develop friendships with their neighbors that may last a lifetime. In some towns, young people may form associations whose members socialize together until they marry.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
In rural villages, Hausa usually live in large households (gidaje) that include a man, his wives, his sons, and their wives and children. In large cities, such as Kano or Katsina, Hausa live either in the old sections of town or in newer quarters built for civil servants. Hausa housing ranges from traditional family compounds in rural areas to modern, single-family houses in new sections of cities.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Relatives cooperate in activities such as farming and trade in rural areas, and business activities in urban areas. Relatives hope to live near each other to socialize and support each other. Families arrange marriages for their young people. Marriages between relatives, such as cousins, are preferred. Under Islamic law, a man may marry up to four wives.
Following Islamic custom, most married Hausa women live in seclusion. They stay in the home and only go out for ceremonies or to seek medical treatment. When they do leave their homes, women wear veils and are often escorted by their children.
11 • CLOTHING
Hausa men are recognizable by their elaborate dress. Many wear large, flowing gowns (gare, babban gida) with elaborate embroidery around the neck. They also wear colorful embroidered caps (huluna). Hausa women wear a wrap-around robe made of colorful cloth with a matching blouse, head tie, and shawl.
12 • FOOD
Staple foods include grains (sorghum, millet, or rice) and maize, which are ground into flour for a variety of foods. Breakfast often consists of porridge. Sometimes it includes cakes made of fried beans (kosai) or wheat flour (funkaso). Lunch and dinner usually include a heavy porridge (tuwo). It is served with a soup or stew (miya). Most soups are made with ground or chopped tomatoes, onions, and peppers. To this are added spices and other vegetables such as spinach, pumpkin, and okra. Small amounts of meat are eaten. Beans, peanuts, and milk also add protein to Hausa diets.
13 • EDUCATION
From about the age of six, Hausa children attend Koranic schools (schools where teaching is based on the Islamic holy scripture, the Koran). They learn to recite the scriptures and learn about the practices, teachings, and morals of Islam. By the time they reach adulthood, many achieve high levels of Islamic scholarship.
Since Nigeria received its independence in 1960, the government has built many schools and universities. A majority of Hausa children, especially in urban areas, are now able to attend school, at least at the primary level.
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
Music and art play are important in everyday life. From a young age, Hausa children participate in dances, which are held in meeting places such as the market. Work songs often accompany activities in the rural areas and in the markets. Praise-singers sing about community histories, leaders, and other prominent individuals. Storytelling, local dramas, and musical performances are also common forms of traditional entertainment.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
Hausa society has a strong division of labor according to age and sex. The main activity in the towns is trade; in rural areas, it is agriculture. Many Hausa men have more than one occupation. In the towns and cities, they may have formal jobs, such as teaching or government work, and engage in trade on the side. In rural areas, they farm and also engage in trade or crafts. Some Hausa are full-time traders with shops or market stalls. Many Hausa are full-time Islamic scholars.
Hausa women earn money by processing, cooking, and selling food. They also sell cloth scraps, pots, medicines, vegetable oils, and other small items. Since women are generally secluded according to Islamic law, their children or servants go to other houses or the market on their behalf.
16 • SPORTS
Both wrestling (koko) and boxing (dumb) are popular traditional sports among the Hausa. Matches take place in arenas or markets, often on religious holidays. Music, particularly drumming, accompanies the competition. Opponents wrestle until one is thrown to the ground. Boxers fight until one is either brought to his knees or falls flat on the ground.
Soccer is the most popular modern competitive sport, and is considered the national sport of Nigeria.
17 • RECREATION
Musicians perform at weddings, naming ceremonies, and parties, as well as during Islamic holidays. Today, Western forms of entertainment are popular. Hausa listen to Western music, including rap and reggae, and view American and British television programs. Many have stereos, televisions, and VCRs in their homes.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Hausa are well known for their craftsmanship. There are leather tanners and leather-workers, weavers, carvers and sculptors, ironworkers and blacksmiths, silver workers, potters, dyers, tailors, and embroiderers. Their wares are sold in markets throughout west Africa.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Poverty is widespread among the Hausa. Poverty results in poor nutrition and diet, illness and inadequate health care, and lack of educational opportunities. Most of the region where the Hausa live is prone to drought. Hausa people suffer during harsh weather. Some Hausa have been unable to earn a living in rural areas, and have moved to the cities in search of work.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
Coles, Catherine, and Beverly Mack. Hausa Women in the Twentieth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991.
Koslow, Philip. Hausaland: The Fortress Kingdoms. Kingdoms of Africa. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1995.
World Travel Guide. Nigeria. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/ng/gen.html, 1998.
Hau·sa / ˈhousə; ˈhouzə/ • n. (pl. same or -sas ) 1. a member of a people of northern Nigeria and adjacent regions. 2. the Chadic language of this people, spoken mainly in Nigeria and Niger, and widely used as a lingua franca in parts of West Africa. • adj. of or relating to this people or their language.
Hausa or Haussa (both: hou´sə, –sä), black African ethnic group, numbering about 23 million, chiefly in N Nigeria and S Niger. The Hausa are almost exclusively Muslim and practice agriculture. Their widespread trading activities have contributed to making their language a lingua franca in much of W Africa. In earlier times the Hausa were organized in the Hausa States. Long the vassals of Bornu, the states were conquered by the Songhay in 1513 and by the Fulani in the early 19th cent. In colonial Nigeria the traditional Hausa-Fulani social and political structure was largely maintained under the British policy of indirect rule. The Hausa remain a major force in Nigerian politics.
See I. Madauci, Hausa Customs (1968); P. Hill, Rural Hausa (1972) and Population, Property and Poverty (1977); W. S. Miles, Elections in Nigeria (1988).