History Nigeria

Divorce, sex, girl squads, and spirits in 19th century Nigeria

I’m back again after neglecting this blog for a while. The thing is my process of updating requires a lot of time. I read books, take notes (by hand), type them up on my laptop before I start writing articles. Day jobs and trying to make money get in the way of this greatness…but I still read books on African history that are inaccessible to most Africans and so I still feel the need to share.

One book I read this year was “Baba of Karo: A Woman of the Muslim Hausa”, it’s a biography of Baba, a woman who grew up in Karo, a village in Northern Nigeria. The book originally published in 1954, was written by Mary F. Smith, an anthropologist who lived in Northern Nigeria with her husband Michael Smith. While she lived here, Mary “befriended” Baba and through Baba, got insight into pre- and colonial life among the Hausa.

This book is very important because it’s from a woman’s point of view. Baba shares her life story candidly and talks about topics like farming, bond friendship, adoption, divorce, cheating wives/husbands, slavery and more. Baba’s perspectives words rubbish those Nigerians who like to whitewash history, telling stories about how in the past life was *insert any moralistic ideal*. Baba’s life story shows that women did care for sex, there was adultery, money was a big deal, women resisted institutions such as marriage and a lot more. I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention that Baba was married three times and did not have any biological children, although she adopted and raised many children as her own.

The plan over the next couple of weeks is to write a series of blog posts based on what I read here. I’ll specifically write about

  • “gifts” exchanged during marriage,
  • sex and adultery,
  • the institution of kawaye and other forms of friendship/mentorship between women, and
  • the importance of money and women making their money.

Perhaps I will also write about bori but maybe not as I’ve done this before.

Image source: A Hausa Woman carrying in the African style on Head. by Thomas Fisher via Nigeria Nostalgia Project Tumblr

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