Beyond Aesthetics, Functionality and Economic Benefits: Art and Societal Transformation taking the Example of Cap Making in Northeast Nigeria
Dieser Artikel basiert auf der Forschungsarbeit der Autorin im Rahmen des Graduiertenkollegs „Performing Sustainability. Cultures and Development in West-Africa“ der Universität Hildesheim (Deutschland), der Universität Maiduguri (Nigeria) und der Universität Cape Coast (Ghana). Er untersucht die Rolle von Kunst, über ihre ästhetischen, wirtschaftlichen und therapeutischen Qualitäten hinaus, in gesellschaftlichen Transformationsprozessen. Dabei wird die Herstellung von Kopfbedeckungen von Binnengeflüchteten im Bundesstaat Borno, Nigeria, unter dem Aspekt der Förderung von Geschlechtergerechtigkeit und gesellschaftlicher Inklusion in den Fokus genommen. Nach Vertreibungen durch Boko Haram im Bundestaat Borno hat die Haupstadt Bornos, Maiduguri, seit 2014 einen großen Zustrom von Binnenvertriebenen erlebt. Die plötzliche Konzentration von Hutmacher*innen in Maiduguri führte zum Aufkommen eines Marktes für Kopfbedeckungen durch die Binnengeflüchteten, welcher zu einem künstlerischen Anziehungspunkt wird. Er bringt Menschen über Alters-, Geschlechter- und soziale Klassengrenzen hinweg zusammen und schafft durch die Kunst des Hutmachens einen Ort der Chancengleichheit für Männer und Frauen, an dem sie ein Auskommen finden und frei interagieren können. Vor diesem Hintergrund untersucht diese Arbeit die Auswirkung der Markt-Interaktionen auf soziale und Geschlechterverhältnisse. Die Studie nutzt bei der Datenerhebung einen qualitativen Forschungsansatz unter Verwendung von Interviews und Beobachtungen. Diese Arbeit untersucht mögliche Auswirkungen der Markt-Interaktionen auf soziale und Geschlechterverhältnisse. Die Studie nutzt bei der Datenerhebung einen qualitativen Forschungsansatz unter Verwendung von Interviews und Beobachtungen. Ergebnisse dieser Forschung zeigen, dass die in dieser Gesellschaft vorherrschende Geschlechterungleichheit und soziale Ausgrenzung durch die Interaktionen innerhalb des Kunstmarktes schrittweise weniger werden. Die vorliegende Studie betont daher die Möglichkeiten von Kunst, Grenzen der Geschlechterverhältnisse und der gesellschaftlichen Ausgrenzung aufzuweichen.
This paper is an examination of the role of the art of cap making towards the attainment of gender equality and social inclusion in Northeast Nigeria. Maiduguri, Borno State’s capital city witnessed the massive influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) following the expulsion of people from the Local Government Areas of the state and their surrounding villages since 2014. The concentration of IDPs in Maiduguri precipitated the emergence of a cap market by IDPs that brings people together across gender, social class and age with artistic expression being the force of attraction. It is against this backdrop that this paper examines the impact of the interaction which this market space provides on IDPs with regard to gender and social relations. The paper adopts a qualitative research approach using interviews and observation for data collection. Findings of the paper reveal that the lines of gender inequality and social exclusion that were largely dominant within this society are gradually fading as a result of the interactions within the art market space.
Displacement induced by Boko Haram Insurgents’ violent activities began in the Local Government Areas of Borno State, Northeast Nigeria and their surrounding villages around the end of the year 2013 and reached its peak all through 2014. While a number of the displaced persons fled to neighbouring countries such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon, the vast majority of the forcefully displaced persons have long been temporarily settled in Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps and host communities within Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Studies have shown that this displacement has significantly disrupted the cultural, psycho-social and economic lives of the people. Shallangwa notes that the displacement placed a barrier between the IDPs and their heritage, their land, physical or material objects, monuments, sites, beliefs, customs, knowledge, traditions and so on, which are passed from generation to generation and has ushered them into a new way of life that is in contrast with what they were familiar with prior to the displacement (Shallangwa 2021).
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are persons or
As a result of the losses they suffered, the IDPs feel inferior, what one could term second class indigenes even though they are within their state of origin. It cannot be denied that there is a subtle marginalization between the IDPs and members of the host communities. While trying to build up resilience in the midst of their los
Pre Boko Haram era, a number of towns in Borno State were vibrant in the art of cap making, Bama was one of those towns however, following the onslaught by the insurgents on the towns and villages of Borno State, the inhabitants of such places fled to Maiduguri the State capital for safety; there, they continued their art. The concentration of the cap makers in Maiduguri and the high demand for the caps necessitated the emergence of a cap market in Maiduguri that is fast growing in recent times. This market brings people across gender, age and class in Maiduguri together with art as the common denominator. It is common practice for the performative arts to bring people together yet, not very common within the visual arts milieu. It is against this premise that this paper investigates the potency of the art of cap making in the attainment of the UN sustainable development goals specifically SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, focusing on target 5.1 with its indicator “End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere” and SDG 10
The study adopts a qualitative approach, data was collected through in-depth interviews and observ
- Art here refers to a product created through human ingenuity which could be aesthetically appealing and functional.
- Gender equality is a concept that advocates that women and men as well as boys and girls are treated equally and have equal access to resources that will enable them thrive and reach their full potential.
- Social inclusion is a concept that entails improving the ability and dignity of those disadvantaged or discriminated on the basis of their identity.
This paper is underpinned by Berry’s acculturation theory. Berry defines acculturation as the dual process of cultural and psychological change that takes place as a result of contact between two or more cultural groups and their individual members. At the group level it involves changes in social structures and institutions and in cultural practices. At the individual level, it involves changes in a person’s behavioural repertoire (Berry 2005). Two key factors were identified by Berry in the acculturation theory. They are: cultural maintenance which entails valuing and preserving cultural identity, and contact and participation which concerns involvement with the dominant culture and other social groups.
Berry also came up with four strategies of acculturation in his acculturation theory namely: assimilation, separation, integration and marginalization (Berry 1997).
- Assimilation: From the point of view of non-dominant groups, when individuals do not wish to maintain their cultural identity and seek daily interaction with other cultures, the Assimilation strategy is defined.
- Separation: In contrast to assimilation, when individuals place a value on holding on to their original culture, and at the same time wish to avoid interaction with others, the Separation alternative is
- Integration: When there is an interest in both maintaining one’s original culture, while in daily interactions with other groups, Integration is the option. Here, there is some degree of cultural integrity maintained, while at the same time seeking to participate as an integral part of the larger social network.
- Marginalization: When there is little possibility or interest in cultural maintenance (often for reasons of enforced cultural loss), and little interest in having relations with others (often for reasons of exclusion or discrimination) then Marginalization is defined (Berry 1997).
In the context of the IDPs and the cap market, the integration strategy can be applied to understand how their interactions with other individuals ha
Pluralistic Ethnic Composition of the Bo
rno Area and People
Borno State is pluralistic in ethnic composition with about thirty languages represented, many of which are autochthonous. Twenty-six of these languages are classified as Chadic, while Kanuri (the largest language and ethnic group) is classified as Saharan. Nineteen out of the twenty-seven Local Government Areas are Kanuri-speaking (El-Yakub 2009). Arabic is only spoken by the Shuwa-Arab, and parts of the state also speak Fulfulde. Kanuri, the major language, is also spoken in some other states in the country as well as in other African countries. For example, there are Kanuri people in Yobe and Nasarawa states of Nigeria and in other African countries of Niger, Cameroun, Chad and Sudan (El-Yakub 2009). The second largest ethnic group in Borno State is the Bura-Pabir, with its home in the Biu emirate in the southern part of the state. The Bura-Pabir have a lot in common with the Kanuri. Although their kingship traditions of today appear to be similar, the different regalia and ceremonies suggest independent origins (El-Yakub 2009).
The ethnic makeup of the rest of Borno State is quite mixed. Gwoza Emirate is a mosaic of languages and a mixture of all ethnicities, with a number of languages and cultural traditions shared with the people of Cameroon. Their major languages are Clavda, Johode, Mandara and Waha. Elsewhere, the Marghi language of the Askira-Uba emirate is divided into dialects grouped mainly under the North and South Marghi. Like Gwoza, Uba emirate is also a place of mixed ethnicity. The main language of another emirate, the Shani emirate is Tera. The Shani record a long list of capable leaders (El-Yakub 2009).
Borno State is essentially an agrarian society and most of the people residing in the rural areas are peasant farmers. The various loamy soils of the area are known for their good harvests of crops such as groundnuts, onions, beans, millet, maize and a variety of vegetables like pepper, tomatoes, sorrel and okra. In the depressed zones where the soils are heavier and wetter;
Kanuri people have been Muslims for many centuries, therefore, one must constantly bear in mind that the whole framework of their social organization is based on Muslim practice and tradition (Cohen 1961).
Platte (2011) notes that in both rural and urban settings, the spatial structure of a Kanuri compound basically consists of a walled area with three individual structures: an entrance room, a room for the husband and as is appropriate in a society where gender segregation is optimally expressed, one room for each of the wives, where the children sleep as well. Platte notes however that a very recent development is the tendency for the men’s and if possible, the women’s rooms to be entered through another room furnished in the style of a Western ‘living room’.
Gender Roles and Social Stratification in Traditional Kanuri Settings
Gender roles were clearly defined in Kanuri traditional settings before the displacement: men were solely responsible for providing food and guaranteeing the safety of their families while the women were saddled with the responsibility of managing domestic matters within their homes and ensuring their children were well nurtured and given the proper upbringing. The men had central authority manifested in their power in decision making as the heads of households as well as the breadwinners of their homes. While the opinions of women were sought, the power to take the final decisions lay almost completely with the men. Cohen explicitly outlines gender roles in Kanuri traditional settings thus:
Cohen (1961) mentions that the Kanuri society is stratified, with status based on tribal membership, occupation, birth, age, wealth, and to some extent on urban residence identifications. The people recognize two major class divisions
It is evident from the brief discussion that gender inequality and class distinction which often times result in the marginalization of the “other” group are dominant features in Kanuri traditional settings. Class distinction has been heightened by the displacement as discussed in the introductory part of this paper while in the case of gender equality, the displacement can be a stepping stone in its attainment in traditional Kanuri settings (Shallangwa 2021).
Origin and Development of the Art of Cap Making
Kanuri people place high premium on caps. Protecting the head from the scorching sun and dust are some of the functions of the cap (Ogboli 2004). Tracing the exact origin of the art of cap making among the participants of this study was difficult however, a number of them mentioned Mecca in Saudi Arabia. One is tempted to conclude that the generation that had the information on the origin of the art of cap making phased out without handing down the oral history to their successors. Fannami and Muazu (2012) attest that the origin of how the use of the caps began among the Kanuri peoples and the etymology of the term was not known among the informants of their study however, some informants traced the origin to Saudi Arabia, Karachi and Islamabat. This information may be valid considering the empire of Kanem Bornu’s early contact with the Islamic world.
Participants of this study explained that initially, there was some form of division of labour involved in the cap making artistic production process; men drew the pattern of the design on the fabric which serves as a frame for the cap while the women or girls embroider the design using thread and needle following the already drawn pattern. Men embroider the design as well however, in most cases where women embroider, the designs were usually created by men. Though it has been reported that it is taboo for a woman to embroider the crown of a cap, this is not unconnected with the belief that it is belittling for a woman to design the crown or dome of an object that will sit on the head of a male in Kanuri tradition. But today no one bothers to know who embroiders the crown
Cap Market by Internally Displaced Persons
The cap market is located on Damoboa Road in Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno State. It emerged in the face of displacement when the insurgents took over Bama town in 2014. Bama was very famous in the art of cap making pre-insurgency era hence, a good number of Bama indigenes are involved in the art. A number of IDPs from Bama upon arrival moved to the house of Late Senator Khalifa Ahmed Zanna who was then the Senator representing Borno Central Senatorial Zone in the National Assembly. Participants mentioned that the market was found by some displaced men
Presently, this small market has evolved to a daily vibrant cap market with over 1000 people both men and women, old and young making a living. The market has a chairman who coordinates its activities. Both males and females take part in cleaning and ensuring the environment is safe. In the market one finds different activities involved in the production process ongoing such as design creation, embroidery, fixing the tufts or crown of the cap as well as finishing which involves washing, starching, beating and ironing of the caps.
The Impact of the Cap Market on the Internally Displaced Persons
This unique market is said to be having great impact on the artisans in numerous ways and that is what this subsection is preoccupied with
Shifting Gender Relations through the Artistic Process of Cap Making
Before the displacement, women who engaged in the art and business of cap making usually operate
In Bama, I embroidered the caps and I had a customer who usually came for the embroidered frame without the crown and tuft. To be honest, I think I was exploited by that man, I made between 1,000 and 1,500 Naira for each but in this market, I make more than five times the amount myself. I have direct link with customers and I am able to negotiate by myself. I am happy about this because I am now more confident in myself, I am able to decide and stand for myself (Female participant 2021).
From the words of this participant and other several female participants of this study, the women involved in this art and business have achieved a form of liberation in the business. They are able to speak for themselves and decide on prices which has affected their confidence level progressively. They feel empowered through the artistic process of cap making.
Both men and women interact freely in the cap market by IDPs without anyone feeling intimidated or less appreciated. Customers are free to purchase items whether made by a man or a woman as long as they find it aesthetically appealing and valuable. A male participant mentioned that:
In this market, both men and women are treated equally. The customer buys the item he/she finds attractive. The gender of the producer or seller does not determine the price of the item in any way. Women and men are free to exhibit their works and fix prices based on their investment of materials and time. Honestly, in the past, caps produced by men were more expensive but this has changed tremendously (Male participant, March 2021).
Study participants mentioned that the fact that both males and females are treated equally does not mean the men have lost their respect by the women, rather it has fostered better understanding on the synergy that is required by both genders for stronger and peaceful communities.
Strengthening Social Relations through the Arts
The displacement has amplified the issue of social stratification between the IDPs and Maiduguri residents. Often times, the IDPs are seen as unclean and blamed for mishaps within host communities. For instance, IDPs are accused for thefts within neighbourhoods and in some instances they are accused of witchcraft. This has resulted in the feeling of marginalization among IDPs however, the cap market by IDPs is contributing immensely in eliminating that marginalization by creating a common space for both IDPs and residents to interact with each party having something to bring to the table. The IDPs bring the products of their ingenuity
Participants of the study attested that most of them arrived Maiduguri with little or nothing having lost their assets and means of livelihoods to the violent attacks by the insurgents. This made some residents look down on them which in turn created a sense of marginalization creating a barrier between the IDPs and residents. However, this market is gradually removing the barrier. Some study participants highlighted that
I was into the art and business of cap making long before the displacement. I built my house and cared for my family from the profit I made
From the words of this participant the market has changed the way he thinks about himself and his living standard has greatly improved as a result of his engagement in this market.
On the issue of how the market has impacted social relations between Maiduguri residents and the IDPs, participants mentioned that the market has created a platform where residents and IDPs mingle and interact. Participants added that resident
Through the market, I feel like I am contributing to the society and I do not feel inferior anymore. I have rich customers and I have their contacts. They invite me to their houses from time to time and they treat me well. This is because I am not relying on them for donations, they pay for my products so they have no reason to look down on me. My living standard has also improved so why should they look down on me? This market has created the avenue for us to meet with the high and mighty and it is paying our bills so no one looks down on us or intimidates us anymore (Male participant, March, 2021).
The market that was started by Bama IDPs is today open to other IDPs from other parts of the state and it is enhancing positive attitudinal change among the Borno people in a rapid manner.
This paper examined the role of the art of cap making in societal transformation in Maiduguri, Borno State Nigeria. While the cap market by IDPs has provided a common space for gender equality and social inclusion to thrive, only one thing attracts people to this market which is art, in this case the art of cap making. This study has identified that art is highly instrumental in societal transformation and advocates for the replication of such spaces and the teaching of artistic skills in education curricular.Culture is dynamic