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Baba of Karo - Smith, Mary F - Yale University Press

Social Science


Baba of Karo

A Woman of the Muslim Hausa

  • Mary F. Smith
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Daughter of a Hausa farmer and Koranic teacher, Baba became Mary Smith’s friend in 1949, when M. G. and Mary Smith were engaged in fieldwork in Nigeria. In daily sessions for several weeks Baba dictated her life story, which Mrs. Smith has translated from the Hausa. The old woman’s memories reached back to the days of slave raids and interstate warfare before the British occupation, and she has left a fascinating and valuable record of Hausa life in the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth.

Baba describes Hausa male-oriented society from a woman’s point of view, narrating not only her own life history but stories of other women who were close to her. She tells of Hausa domestic life, farming, and slavery, and explains the Hausa institutions of bond friendship, adoption, polygynous marriage, and kinship, showing how, in a society that permits easy and frequent divorce, children are not exclusively dependent on their biological parents for emotional support.

First published in 1945 and now reissued with a new foreword by Hilda Kuper, this autobiography of a shrewd, humorous, and courageous personality remains a classic in the field of African studies and a uniquely valuable account of a Muslim society in West Africa.

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