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5 Ways Contemporary Northern Nigeria Culture Celebrates the Strength, Struggles, and Beauty of Motherhood

Growing up, I witnessed my mother’s incredible resilience as she walked on a thorn-infested cement floor to ensure that my siblings and I had enough to eat and could go to school after the untimely death of my father. This experience has led me to reflect on the recognition and celebration of women’s sacrifices.

In a world filled with stories that often portray motherhood through a narrow lens, I feel it’s essential to showcase the diverse experiences — not only the challenges, but also the triumphs of mothers from all walks of life. We need a narrative that unfolds through the lens of inspiring mothers who defy odds,   break stereotypes, and foster love and growth within their family.

In compiling this list, I hope to unpack the complex emotions, sacrifices, and joy that comes with being a mother. I hope that this list will beautifully capture the small moments of tenderness, the bittersweet feeling of watching children grow, and the immense strength found in the face of adversity. I invite readers to a celebration of the multifaceted nature of motherhood and a testament to the incredible mothers who shape our world.

Book: The Adventure of Ayya

The Adventure of Ayya by Sani Abdurrazak, a Northern Nigerian novelist, is a captivating story that takes us on a journey with Ayya, the second daughter of a Baggara family. Set in the small village of Fage, the story explores themes of family, love, cultural diversity, and personal growth.

From a young age, Ayya faces challenges, including the loss of her mother and the guidance of her aunt. As she grows up, she develops a strong bond with her sister Hauwa, and together they navigate life’s obstacles.

The story highlights the importance of intercultural exchanges in the community, showcasing nights of cultural and artistic displays that promote peace and harmony among different ethnic groups.

As Ayya reaches the age when marriage becomes a cultural expectation, she grapples with the idea of leaving everything she knows to start a new life. Her father plays a crucial role in convincing her of her inner strength and bravery.

Throughout her journey, Ayya confronts the challenges of a new environment, including language barriers. However, with determination and the support of the locals, she adapts and learns to embrace her new surroundings.

Despite facing the challenge of her society’s deeply ingrained values, Ayya remains both inquisitive and determined in her pursuit of a Western education.

The narrative beautifully portrays her struggles, from her desire for education in a society resistant to change to her tumultuous marriages and the hardships she endured as a single mother.

The story also sheds light on societal issues, including domestic violence and the challenges faced by divorced women in a traditional setting. 

While the story does encompass moments of tragedy and loss, it also celebrates Ayya’s triumphs, particularly in her children’s achievements and her eventual financial stability. It emphasizes the significance of perseverance and hard work in attaining success, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Eventually, Ayya passed away in the arms of her daughter with her grandson Isa by her side. Despite her passing, Ayya’s teachings and stories were passed down through generations, ensuring her memory lives on. 

Overall, the story of Ayya is an engaging and thought-provoking read that captivates the reader’s attention from beginning to end.

Film: Mahaifiya Mu

Mahaifiyar Mu, a Kannywood movie highlights the struggles faced by a widow who had to raise her children single-handedly. After her husband’s death, she made sacrifices by selling their farm for her eldest son Ali Nuhu to start a business in the city. However, her second son, Baballe Hayatu, insisted on going to the city instead.

Despite Baballe’s success in the city, he neglected his family and prioritized his own wealth and his wife’s needs over his mother, brother, and sister. When they visited him, he turned them away, claiming they had not informed him beforehand. This caused anger and resentment among his family members.

Interestingly, he treated his wife’s sisters with kindness and generosity, while ignoring his own blood relatives. Tragedy struck when his mother fell ill, and the family requested financial assistance for her treatment. However, He provided only a small amount that was insufficient for her medical bills. Unfortunately, his mother passed away due to a heart attack and left a will specifically stating that he should not come near her body or attend her funeral.

In an ironic twist, Baballe, who initially lost his wealth while Ali prospered, eventually faced more hardships. His wife, unhappy with their situation, sold their house and left with the money.

This story serves as a reminder not to disregard our parents and close relatives, even in times of wealth and success. It underscores the importance of valuing family bonds and treating our loved ones with respect and compassion.

Visual Art: The Struggles of a Fulani Woman

The struggles of Fulani women are expertly portrayed in the painting by Hidayah Muhammad Adam, a talented Northern artist. The painting depicts a Fulani woman with her baby securely tied to her back and balancing a calabash of Nono on her head, while carrying another one on her hand.

This artwork symbolizes the myriad challenges that Fulani women often endure. From the responsibility of caring for their children to the arduous tasks of milking cows and selling milk to sustain their families, Fulani women face a range of difficulties.

Some of the common challenges faced by Fulani women include limited access to education, the constraints of a nomadic lifestyle, scarcity of resources, early and forced marriages, and limited economic opportunities.

Music: Mahaifiya Ta

In the internationally acclaimed song “Mahaifiyata” by Umar M. Shareef, a talented Hausa musician from Northern Nigeria, the opening alone beautifully portrays his deep love for his mother. He describes his mother as “haske” which means light, symbolizing her role as the illuminating force that dispels darkness from his life.

Umar acknowledges that he can never fully repay his mother for all she has done for him. He expresses his gratitude and promises to never forget her. He also acknowledges the significance of mothers in Islam, as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) mentioned the importance of a mother three times before mentioning a father.

He fondly reminisces about how his mother carried him for nine months, enduring sickness and going through hardships. He appreciates how she cared for him, changing his diapers and nourishing him with her pure white milk.

Event: Mother’s Day

In northern Nigeria, Mother’s Day has gradually become incorporated into wedding celebrations as time has gone by. It is now a special day set aside to honor and celebrate mothers when their daughters are getting married. During this celebration, the mother and the bride dress beautifully, and friends and family join in the festivities. There is dancing, eating, and the tradition of spraying money. Gifts and marital advice are exchanged, but the emphasis is primarily on honoring the bride’s and groom’s mothers.

Throughout the wedding event, the mothers are actively involved in various rituals and ceremonies. This involvement symbolizes their blessings and support for the couple. It is a time to express gratitude, appreciation, and ensure their significant presence in specific moments throughout the celebration.

As the wedding comes to an end, it can be an emotional experience for the bride, as she realizes she will miss her mother.

It is disheartening to see that sometimes society fails to fully acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices made by women like my mother. Women around the world make countless sacrifices every day, from putting their own needs and aspirations aside to caring for their families, often without receiving the recognition they deserve.

Whether it’s through vocal appreciation, acts of kindness, or creating opportunities for their advancement, celebrating women’s sacrifices is an essential step towards empowerment.

Now more than ever, there is a need to shine light on the immense sacrifices that women make, honoring their journeys and inspiring others to value and uplift women in our communities. Together, we can foster a culture of appreciation and celebration that empowers women to achieve their fullest potential and create a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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