Gatan Gatan Ku
As a child, I was bewildered to learn that my mother could neither read nor write in English. I was reading The Drummer Boy then and I felt sorry that she could never enjoy the thrills I enjoyed reading that book. I imagined how much she would have enjoyed An African Night Entertainment and The Passport of Mallam Ilia; only if she could read! It was indeed heart-breaking for me. So one day I broached the topic with her. She regaled me with an interesting story about why she was never sent to school, out of the love of her mother.
Back then, in her village, it was the children of the wife that was less loved by her husband that were sent to school. It was a form of punishment; you know, if a woman’s children weren’t at home to help her with her chores then she’d suffer more to keep up with the responsibilities expected of her.
My mother belonged to the woman who was most loved by my grandfather. So, she got to stay home while her step-siblings went to school.
Anyway, Mother proposed what I like to think is my first sweet deal out of life – that I teach her to read and write in English while she reciprocates by teaching me to do same in Hausa. I agreed, then, because I only wanted to be able to read the Bible in Hausa language, something that was very fashionable in those days among ECWA church members.
I gradually abandoned my copy of the King James Bible for the Hausa version she had gotten for me. As my proficiency in Hausa improved, she gave me what would become my favourite novel as a child – Magana Jari Ce. After reading the stories in that book I felt sorry for myself; my mother enjoyed the thrills that came in good stories. Ruwan Bagaja was my next read, and by this time she set me on a roll. Soon I had to start fighting to get me off her books.
Sadly, as I grew older I read less Hausa texts as Hausa writers were relegated to the background while writers who write in English took all the shine. Ironically, Mother’s insistence that I get western education – something she was unwittingly denied – contributed to the decline in my enjoyment of Hausa literature. Hausa (and many other Nigerian languages) were regarded as vernacular in school and pupils were made to pay a sum for speaking it.
Fast forward to 2015 when I founded Praxis Magazine for Arts and Literature, a rallying point for writers and artists to commune and advance their craft. Part of the motivation to start Praxis was the desire to revive literature in indigenous languages – something we experimented with weekly columns in the three major Nigerian languages, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. The reception was warm at first but dwindled over time. I would later realise that I did not properly engage with stakeholders as far as the production of quality literature is concerned. The Hausa language enjoyed more readership and visitors who came to our website within that period made up a large chunk of our new user base within that period according to Google Analytics. The Hausa columns led, closely followed by the Igbo column that was run by Amarachi Atama, and the Yoruba column jointly ran by James Ogunjimi and Julianah Adeleke.
That little experiment in 2016 convinced me beyond doubt that the time was ripe for us to have a platform specially dedicated to the production of quality literature in Hausa language. This is why we are starting Gatanan Gatanan Ku, a subsidiary of Praxis Magazine (one of the fastest-growing digital platform for arts and literature on the continent). Beyond the publication of works of prose, poetry, podcasts (folktales/oral literature) and literary news, we intend to facilitate the adaptation of books originally published in English into Hausa language. And as we grow we would venture into the production of movies mainly adapted from books originally written in the Hausa language in partnership with Box Office Studios Ltd. This is something I have dreamed about doing for a long time and I FEEL this is the right time to make it happen.
I must state here that in the past four years, Praxis Magazine has created so much impact on the literary scene on the continent. We have discovered very talented writers and poets who have gone ahead to shake up the literary space. I’d love to especially mention two out of the many talented people we have impacted. Anthony Okafor (popularly known as JK Anowe) who launched our chapbook series has grown with us through the ranks of an intern editor to associate editor, and now he’s become editor of the chapbook series that was started with his manuscript.
Then there is Romeo Oriogun, a friend and a brother. Romeo’s chapbook, Burnt Men, was part of the earliest publication under the Praxis Chapbook Series. He went on to win the Brunel Prize for Poetry and he is currently a fellow at the prestigious Harvard University. We have impacted the lives of so many others – myself and Praxis Managing Editor, Laura M. Kaminsky, have received countless emails from across the world narrating how this platform has improved the craft and lives of different people.
We have meaningful partnerships with art organisations across the globe, including the organisers of the famous Caine Prize. For instance, we are the Media Partner for the 2019 Writivism UnBreakable Bonds festival. The past years have been dedicated to building structures and spreading out as it has always been in our plans to reach out like we are doing now.
I am happy that we have decided to provide the coverage and revamp Hausa literature at this time. It is with great joy that I introduce to you all, Gatanan Gatanan Ku. I have put together a reliable team whose individual and collective wealth of experience will give the platform the most needed edge and direction. The editorial team include Professors Ismail Bala and Ibrahim Malumfashi, Maryam Ali Ali, Umar Gombe and Maryam Gatawa.
I hereby officially welcome you to the new chapter of Praxis. I will have more news for you, soon. Cheers.