Interview with Hafsatu Ahmed Abdulwahid
By Yusuf M Adamu
ADAMU: Could we hear a brief about your life?
ABDULWAHID (laughter) I was born at Kofar mata in Kano city on May 5, 1958. I started my primary education at Shahuci Primary School when my father was taken to Kaduna where I joined NEA in Kaduna. After four years I proceeded to Provincial Girls School where I spent at least three years. That was up to the time the school was up graded into a secondary school. I got married on January 15, 1966. Currently I have seven children who are alive while three have died.
What drew your attention to start writing?
I have been an avid reader and listener of folktales since my childhood. When I started schooling, I develop my skills of writing from the home-works and assignments we are given.
Pix: Hafsatu Ahmed Abdulwahid & Yusuf Adamu
What is your first storybook?
So Aljannar Duniya. I started writing this book since my primary school days. It was about my elder sister who got married to a Libyan. When I learnt about a competition organised by the NNPC, I sent it as my entry and I was successful to have won the second position.
How do you get your inspiration?
Mostly from the happening around me. You know we still have problems of ethnicity or racial discrimination in our society particularly when it come s to marriage. That in particular inspired me to write So Aljannar Duniya.
When did you actually complete So Aljannar Duniya?
As I said earlier it was very long a go. I re-write it in 1971 and 1972 I revised it. It was that revised copy that I sent for the competition.
You have earlier said that So Aljannar Duniya was based on the life of your elder sister. Can we consider it as entirely a true story?
The story as it was in the book is a combination of her life and some personal experience. I am also married to someone that is not of the same race with me, but I have not experience many problems as my elder sister.
How did you learn about the competition?
I read it in Gaskiya Ta Fi Kwabo.
How many books have you written so far?
I have written about nine books so far but only three were published.
Why do you write?
(Laughter) Interest. But also for one to be able to express himself for others to read.
It took you almost sixteen years to publish another novel (Yardubu) since the publication of So Aljannar Duniya. Why this long silence?
Its not that I have not been writing since that time. The problem is that of getting a publisher, it is a problem of having money to publish, a problem of having some kind of support for this kind of work.
You are married and have children. How do you combine your marital chorus with writing?
This is not a big problem. Since one is interested, the commitment is there. Nothing could stop me from writing.
Do you read other writers in Hausa or English? If yes, give us an example.
I do. I read mostly classical Hausa writers like Abubakar Imam and other writers of that generation. I no longer read much now. I read English novels also mainly historical, horror and thrillers.
Who among Hausa writers impress you most?
Of course it is Abubakar Imam and the author of Tauraruwar Hamada, one Ahmad somebody. I couldn’t remember his surname.
Could it be Umar Dembo?
No, it was not Umaru Dembo. His name is Ahmad some body who wrote Tauraruwar Hamada. Actually the story was about a sister of mine (now late). I read the manuscript before it was published. The author is also dead now. I also read authors like Jabiru Abdullahi the author of Na gari na kowa, the author of Jiki Magayi, and so on. For English writers, I read Rider Haggard, Catherine Gaskin, Arnold Rake and so on.
Do you write in any other language apart from Hausa?
Most of my writings are in Hausa, however I do write English Poems. We are now trying to translate all my Hausa works into English. My father is translating some into Fulfulde and Arabic.
In your first published novel, the main character Bodado is not a Hausa girl rather Fulani. Why was that so?
(Laughter) May be because I myself am Fulbe. Not because I deliberately didn’t like her to be Hausa. I was trying to portray how difficult inter racial marriages were (laughs).
Do you relate to ANA or any writers Association?
Currently in Gusau where I live, I relate with some writers. Some years back I was in contact with a writers Association in Kano, but things went wrong somehow and that was that.
There are now many young writers both males and females. What is your opinion of the new writers?
Well, some of them are good while others are not so good. Some adapt movies. But there are some of them that I enjoy reading like Yusuf Adamu, Babinlata and one Ado Ahmad somebody.
What are your main problems as an authoress?
It is not more than my inability to publish my books. Those that could help are also crying of no money. You know how things are nowadays.
What role do you think Hausa authors could play in shaping the future of Hausa society?
Well they could contribute positively if they write about our culture and about morality. You know how bad things are today. If they could do that I think things will improve.
Do you write non-fiction?
Yes I do. I have published one title about marriage. Some cultural practices are now making marriage very difficult due to economic hardship. The book was launched at the Bayero University, Kano, in September 19… It was entirely about marriage problems.
Does Hausa society value literature?
Not quite! If they care, writers can be encouraged. Fortunately now we have young men and women that read and those that write (particularly about romance) but our people are not helping matters but I think they should.
What should we do?
If rich people can establish publishing outlets, it would certainly help immensely.
Do any of your children write?
Yes. Two of them write. My eldest daughter Kadiriyya does write so also my sixth child Sa’adiyya.
What kind of writing do they do? Is it fiction or newspaper articles?
They write features in newspapers and I encourage them to keep them. They might be published consequently in the future.
What is the joy of being a writer?
The joy is to see that you are able to express your mind into writing that people could read even after your death. This will say a lot about the kind of person you are.
Thank you for your time.
(Laughter) Thank you too.