Hausa Women As Ornaments

Editor | July 2, 2018 | 71 | Family Life , Feminine Forum , Reflections

‘Yan mata adon gari…”

Hausa Women

Now this is a wise saying in Hausa language across some states in West Africa. The saying I believe is as old as the African woman, as attempt to trace its origin may lead one to spending the rest of his life roaming from one archive to the other around the west African sub region. It could roughly be interpreted (I think not translated) to ‘ladies as ornaments’, however, there may be multiple other interpretations. This has been and is still being used as a compliment to flatter the Hausa woman. And it is not just an empty compliment, it actually captures the desire and obsession of the Hausa woman towards presenting a beautiful look and staying at home like an Arab woman.

The Hausa woman has always been contented with her role as ornament in the house. That her physical beauty, devotion and submissive disposition towards her maigida (lord) have become distinct and her hallmarks of femininity. This is consistent with the Arab culture that has dominated an overwhelming proportion and serves as the basis of the modern cultural thoughts and practices.

For the Arab culture that has come to define the way a Hausa woman conducts herself, unfettered reverence to patriarchy, the man has the role of a micro-god. And a woman must submit to his will so long as it does not go outside the bounds of religious injunctions. This in a way gives precedence to the status and role that men play within and outside of the home front.

Does the Hausa woman compete for equality against her man? Is she interested in any Eurocentric ideology that threatens her current status? Relatively, no. It is important to understand that the Hausa woman does not desire to stand shoulder to shoulder against or even beside her husband. She has always stood behind him. Some may wish to present Queen Amina of Zaria as an example of women who stood above men, I mean led men to battle. And that is merely a historical exception.

With the rapid spread of Western civilisation, particularly at the onset of the 21st century, the domineering status of the Hausa man seems to be declining. Certainly, it is through this boom and explosion of knowledge that the Hausa woman must now seek to modify her role in the society. Here we are practically witnessing the impact of education on society and social stratification, as education sociologists would like to put it. The Hausa woman in the city is not likely to be as devoted to domestic chores as her counterpart in the rural area. This is particularly true for a working class Hausa woman who is quite likely to employ the services of a housemaid to bear her cultural responsibilities at home.

Unlike the Hausa woman, who stays at home to decorate the house for her husband during the day and provides him with sexual pleasure at night, her neighbour, the non-Hausa woman of Northern Nigeria takes full responsibility of managing the home and house despite her work outside of the house. For instance, averagely, an Idoma or Berom woman in North-Central Nigeria goes to her own farm and when the crops are due, she takes them to the market to sell and uses the proceeds to provide for the needs of her family. This is not to say that she doesn’t have a husband. The husband could most times be found in the beer parlour wasting his monthly salary after which he returns home to feed from the sweats of his wife. Perhaps, the non-Hausa woman of Northern Nigeria and her role in the home could be a topic for another day.

By the way, there are other hard working Hausa women out there who still find time to take good care of their homes after work hours outside.

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Ann Ene Agbo

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