Wolof and Hausa9 May 2009 at 4:31 AM | Posted in News | 6 Comments
Something I would never have known B.G. (Before Google):
“The use of a second language is to be found in some Senegalese poetry where poems sometimes have Wolof phrases inserted and in Nigeria where Hausa words serve the same function. . . . An example of the use of Hausa in an Arabic poem is the rhyming word tunkwiyau [influenza] in a poem by al-Hājj Umar b. Abī Bakr al-Şalghawī (c. 1858-1934), a Kano merchant/scholar who emigrated to the Gold Coast.”
This passage is from Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa: Classical Traditions and Modern Meaning (1996), by Stefan Sperl, C. Shackle, and Nicholas Awde, pp. 88-89.
Those of us in the English-speaking world are often ignorant of what is going on in literary communities that do not write in English. Using Mao Zedong’s image of women holding up half of heaven, we could say that we (English writers) see only our small bit of heaven and do not realize that most of heaven is held up by poets not speaking the languages we speak.
Of course, Senegalese poets also write in French (English writers that do not read French or Francophone poetry are even worse, because there is no reason not to learn another great Western literary language); it is Wolof that is marginalized. Similarly, Nigerian poets also write in English, as well as Arabic; it is Hausa that is marginalized. The marginalization of languages is not just a political or a linguistic issue; it is a literary issue.