The emergence of Hausa entertainment industry, popularly known as Kannywood, has indeed reshaped Hausa/Fulani culture and the way people around the world once thought about the conservative region.
In one way or the other, Hausa films have entered nook and crannies in Nigeria especially the North. There is no single house in the region that can exempt itself from Hausa movie contents; it is everywhere.
The industry formally got momentum around 1990s. The movers and shakers were eager to attract more Hausa audience; thus, they came out with a new concept of cinematic synthesis of Indian and Hausa culture, which evolved and became extremely popular.
Turmin Danya (The Draw), 1990, is usually cited as the first commercially successful Hausa film. It was followed by Gimbiya Fatima, In Da So Da Kauna, Munkar, Badakala and Ki Yarda Da Ni. The actors like Ibrahim Mandawari and Hauwa Ali Dodo became popular and set the stage for the emergence of super-star-like female actresses later on.
No doubt, Kannywood remains a driving point for economic activities in centre for commerce and industries in Africa, which is Kano State, as film production is fast becoming one of the highest employers of labour in the country.
For its lucrativeness, Kannywood is considered the third leg of the national tripod supporting a hub of an emerging commercial activity through national film industry, Nollywood. It would be recalled that in 2001, Kano State government accepted the film industry as very important by constituting the State Censors Board with film as its main area of concentration.
Recent statistics from the Nigerian National Film and Video Censor’s Board (NFVCB) show that of the over 1,000 Nigerian films approved by the board annually, English language films surprisingly made up only around 15%. By contrast, around 50% of the films were in Yoruba, and around 30% in Hausa.
The rising number of Nigerian language films indicates that, despite the global media focus on English films; Nigerian audiences seem to prefer productions in Nigerian languages. In 2010, DSTV opened Africa Magic channels in Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo.
There are rising trends in opening new television stations which are competing with one another in terms of showing Hausa films.
The Arewa 24, Farin Wata, Gamzaki are some of the popular channels broadcasting Hausa films on daily basis, and soon to opened Kannywood TV which is currently being put together by Dr. Ahmed Sarari.
Precisely, no one has number of total films produced in Kannywood. This is the result of lack of information and database. But it has been estimated that Kannywood produces not less than 300 films per year, making it one of the most producers of visual/feature films.
Years 2017-2018 are considered as commercially successful years in the history of Kannywood where films like Mansoor, Rariya, Kanwar Duba Rudu, Auren Manga, Mijin Yarinya, Yaki A Soyayya, etc. recorded success at the Box Office.
According to some uncensored reports, Kannywood provides jobs to not less than 500,000 people across the country, direct and indirect. There are over 300 active producers, production houses and distributors in the industry.
There is no way you can talk about film distribution without talking about piracy. The tragedy of piracy in Nigeria is the fact that even the filmmakers, music producers, artistes, distributors, exhibitors and vendors are all consumers of pirated movies and music recordings. This is one of the major factors affecting the growth of Kannywood. Every hand needs to be on deck to stem the menace of copyright violation and infringement of their contents.
Kannywood as a Cultural Revolution pertaining marriage in Hausaland has been impacting on social life. While portraying the tradition of marrying off young girls to old rich and powerful men, it has been affirming the right of the girl-child to choose whom she wants to spend the rest of her life with.
Of course, Kannywood films are not and cannot be completely compatible with Islam or Hausa ‘culture’, but some of them try to abide by religious and cultural tenets. Kannywood is the only cinema where a man and a woman cannot be shown sleeping on the same bed, among other religious-cultural boundaries. Although some wish it were not that strict, it is and shall remain so.
No one will deny this fact that, Kannywood is no longer a Kano-based film industry but a national one. Many other producers from the southern part of Nigeria have already started making movies in Hausa language and distributing it worldwide. In some instances, they hug, kiss and cuddle in their films and Kano State Censorship Board has no authority to stop them.
Talented Northern Nigerian youths have since risen to the challenge. They have reduced government’s burden in providing job opportunities. I know a lot who cannot work in any government agency no matter the pay; they will rather be independent.
Nigeria, the so-called poverty capital of the world, has already established itself as one of the countries with highest number of unemployed youth. The country needs to invest more in entertainment industry given its vast potentials.
At a time some misguided Nigerians that have chosen the route of mayhem to fellow citizens through insurgency, banditry, robbery and kidnapping are being considered for amnesty by federal and state governments as a means of reintegrating them into the society, it will not be a bad idea for the government to actively encourage those already making positive impacts in the development of their states – socially and economically – in the creative industry.
After all, celebrities are opinion-shapers globally. We saw how President Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Kano state Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, Abba K. Yusuf, among other politicians in Nigeria, sought for their endorsements before the 2019 elections.
I call on Kannywood stakeholders to save their industry from crashing. The ongoing arrest and imprisonment of their members expose several things about both the actors and the industry. Today, there is a conspicuous absence of committed leadership, total disrespect for elders in Kannywood. The stakeholders should allow people from nowhere to take over the industry.
Aliyu writes from Bayero University Kano