Hausa Popular Fiction at SOAS

By Special Collections, SOAS Library|6th February 2018|Collections & Research|0 comments

This week’s blog comes from Dawn Wright, SOAS subject Librarian for Africa, and looks at the Furniss Collection (E Coll 7), a collection of Hausa Popular Fiction made by Professor Graham Furniss (former Pro-Director for Research and Enterprise at SOAS, University of London) and acquired by SOAS Library in 2008. The collection was amongst a larger selection of Hausa materials from the Library’s collections on display for a recent visit to SOAS in December 2017, by Professor Muhammed Yahuza Bello (Vice-Chancellor of Bayero University Kano) and Dr Aliyu Muazu (Head of Department of African Languages at BUK).


The Africa Section of SOAS Library was very pleased to acquire this collection of Hausa popular literature, which runs to over 2000 books. The books are small paperbacks with eye-catching covers, and were cheaply produced to satisfy demand from the growing reading public in Nigeria. Sold in the markets and bookshops of Northern Nigeria in the 1990s and early 2000s they deal with popular culture and most frequently ‘soyayya’ or romance. In Nigeria they have caused debate as to whether they are ‘ephemeral, unworthy frippery that will quickly fade away, or.the beginnings of a serious and important cultural movement’ (Bibliography of Hausa Popular Fiction 1987-2002, / Graham Furniss, Malami Buba, William Burgess). There is also a debate as to whether they conform to Islam or are a corrupting influence.

Like early English chapbooks they are not designed for longevity and so often do not survive. The acquisition of this collection by SOAS Library means this rich resource will be available for future students and researchers of popular literature and culture. The cost of cataloguing this collection was kindly met by Professor Furniss.

The collection has been deposited with the Library’s Special Collections and can be found on the Library catalogue either under a classmark search for ‘E Coll 7‘, or a subject search for ‘Hausa Popular Fiction: Furniss Collection’. Please note that the collection is currently held off-site, so requests for access to this material will need to be made using the off-site request procedure.

Prior to the acquisition of the collection by SOAS Library the first 731 entries were listed in the Hausa Popular Literature Database.

A paper by Graham Furniss, ‘Documenting Hausa Popular Literature’ gives a good scholarly overview of this subject. This paper first appeared in print as Furniss, Graham (2000) ‘Documenting Hausa “market” literature’, in T. A. Barringer (ed.) Africa Bibliography 1998, pp. vii-xxxiii, Edinburgh University Press for the International African Institute.

Other examples of Hausa material held by SOAS Library can be found in Papers of Frederick William Parsons (ref: PP MS 50), the Papers of Professor David Whitehorn Arnott (ref: PP MS 73), the Papers of George Percival Bargery (ref: MS 380516), the Papers of Jean Boyd (ref: PP MS 36), and in the Library’s collections of rare books and manuscripts, many of which are listed on the Library Catalogue. This material can be seen in the Special Collections Reading Room.

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About Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4180

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