Women in Open Society Foundation Photography Exhibition “Moving Walls”- Northern Nigeria – Glenna Gordon Features
Date: November 6, 2015
Moving Walls is an annual documentary photography exhibition produced by the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project. The photographers in Moving Walls 23: Journeys honor the audacity, resourcefulness, and creativity of people carving out new opportunities and realities. Whether escaping the bondage of slavery, fleeing war and hardship, or creating spaces to make their voices heard, they are all pursuing avenues toward a more self-determined future.
1 of 17 photos – Go to Website to Click to Additional Photos: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/moving-walls/23/diagram-heart
Farida Ado Gaci, 27, a romance novelist living in Northern Nigeria, at her window. She is one of a small but significant group of Nigerian women authors of books called littattafan soyayya, Hausa for “love literature.” Kano Nigeria
© Glenna Gordon
A bride at her wedding. Kano, Nigeria
© Glenna Gordon
Glenna Gordon – Artist Statement
Rabi’a Talle Maifata is one of several dozen popular romance novelists living in the predominantly Muslim northern city of Kano, Nigeria’s second biggest city. She is one of a small but significant group of women in Northern Nigeria writing books called littattafan soyayya, meaning “love literature” in the Hausa language.
Read by women and girls in Northern Nigeria and across the Sahel region, these stories are somewhere in between morality tales and romance novels. Small publishers print thousands of copies of the stories, and the books are sold in markets and streets for a dollar or two each.
Littattafan soyayya writers, who are all devout Muslims, must face off with Islamic censors who make them register with the Hisbah, a morality police, as well as government officials, such as a minister of education who publicly burned many books in 2007. These novels range in tone from subversive and disruptive of the norm—speaking out against child marriage and human trafficking—to those that yield to the status quo, advising women on how best to please their husbands and offering fantasies of escape and tales of the poor girl marrying the rich man.
Northern Nigeria made headlines in 2014 when the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram—the name translates to “Western education is sinful”—kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from a remote dormitory. Tens of thousands of people have died since 2009 due to the insurgency led by Boko Haram separatists and the Nigerian army’s escalating response.
While I covered this and other stories as a photojournalist, the authors and their books enabled me to photograph without the constraints of a predetermined narrative or media cycle. Guided by the themes of the novels, my aim is to explore romance, tradition, love, and loss in Northern Nigeria.
—Glenna Gordon, October 2015