26 January 2018

Niger: Bayajida - the Legend of Hausa Land

interview

Historians doubt that Bayajida existed, but the legend of Bayajida remains powerful. It refers to him as the man whose lineage founded the Hausa nation. The legend is re-enacted yearly in Daura, Nigeria.

When did Bayajida live?

Most of the Bayajida legend was transmitted through oral history. There is no record of Bayajida's date of birth or death, and no certainty of his existence. He is believed to have originally come from Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, and after a brief encounter with the Kanem empire in Bornu, he settled in Daura, in modern-day Katsina.

But what was the origin of the legend?

Some sources state that the Bayajida legend appeared somewhere between the 16th and 19th centuries AD. But there is evidence of its existence in Hausa culture as early as the 9th and 10th centuries AD.

What does his name mean?

His original name was most probablyAbu Zaid. The name given to him by the Hausas. Bayajida, is actually a phrase: "Ba ya ji da," which means "he couldn't understand before."

I've heard allusions to a snake. What is the story behind this?

Bayajida is said to have slayed a snake that lived in a well in Kusugu, a place in modern-day Daura. The snake had terrorized the people and deprived them of water. It only allowed water to be drawn from the well on Fridays. In spite of the warnings, Bayajida went to fetch water at the well on a Thursday. When the snake attacked him, he cut off its head with his sword.

Does this story have a happy end?

As a reward for killing the snake, the Queen of Daura, Daurama, promised him half of her kingdom. But Bayajida cleverly refused and instead asked for her hand in marriage. This was unheard of, since all previous queens were had practiced celibacy. However, Daurama felt indebted to him and agreed.

What is his legacy?

Bayajida is known for altering the traditions in Daura: prior to his arrival, the Daura people had been ruled by women. Daura changed from a matriarchy to patriarchy after Bayajida married queen Daurama and their sons succeeded him.

What does his story have to do with the formation of the Hausa States?

Bayajida had three sons: one from his first wife (daughter of the ruler of the Borno empire) called Biram, one from queen Daurama, named Bawo, and one from a concubine. Bawo fathered six sons, who, along with their uncle Biram went on to rule the seven legitimate Hausa states that are today known as: Daura, Kano, Katsina, Zaria, Gobir, Rano and Hadeja.

Pinado Abdu-Waba, Abdoulaye Mamman Amadou and Gwendolin Hilse contributed to this package. It is part of DW's special series "African Roots," in cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

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