Alhassan A. Kwalle is one of the most versatile artistes in the Hausa movie industry. In this interview, the chairman Hausa Actors Guild of Nigeria, Kano State chapter, speaks about the place of women in Kannywood and other issues concerning the industry.
Weekend Magazine: What’s the mandate of the Hausa Actors Guild of Nigeria?
Alhassan Kwalle: The main aim of the Hausa Actors Guild of Nigeria is to unite the actors and actresses under one umbrella and to also protect their interest in the course of their engagements. If anything happens to any of the artistes in the course of work, we tend to be the first point of contact before even their immediate family so we resolved to take it as our responsibility to cater to their wellbeing while on set, and to support them, especially during sickness. We also ensure that they are given their entitlements as and when due.
WM: How would you describe the relationship between the guild, government and the state censorship board?
Kwalle: Our relationship with the government has been very cordial because on several occasions if government or any international NGO wants to sensitise the people on anything, they always come to us seeking for our own contribution to such public enlightenment.
As for the state censorship board, we are also in good terms. Our relationship with the board has helped immensely in improving the quality of our films. Without any intimidation, they monitor our films and offer constructive criticism when and where necessary unlike before when artistes were being haunted over minor issues observed on their films.
WM: Is it true that Hausa films nowadays do not reflect real Hausa values?
Kwalle: Well, people should understand that the society is not static; it is dynamic and amenable to generational change. Film production was not just invented today. It has been there for generations and the films that are being produced in any generation is always a direct reflection of the ways of life of the people of that generation.
If people say the films we produce today do not reflect Hausa culture well, it is their own thinking but if you observe critically, what today’s Hausa man does in his daily living is what we try to portray in the films. Nothing we do in the films is different from present-day Hausa way of life. It is very unfortunate that people are beginning to feel deprived after they rejected the film village earlier proposed by the federal government.
Now, if you want to do a film about Maitasine uprising, it is going to be a herculean task because the kind of clothing and the relationship of the Hausa people in that era is remarkably different from what is obtained today. Similarly, if you want to do a film on ‘old Kano’, depicting the lives of people like ‘Barbushe, Tsunburbura’ there is no way you can do it today because even the Hausa language being spoken at that time is different from what we speak today. So, for you to represent that era, you need to teach people even the Hausa language being spoken during that generation. We should stop deceiving ourselves; the films we are doing today portray the lives of the modern day Hausa people.
WM: How would you describe the position of women in the industry?
Kwalle: Female members of the industry enjoy equal opportunities and rights, only that they are given special attention and care, which explains why during their induction into the industry they are treated differently compared to their male counterparts. For obvious reasons, we always insist that either her parents or any of her relatives should present a woman staying alone to the industry.
WM: There are concerns that actresses who were once married and doing well don’t get roles when they became single again.
Kwalle: Well, what I want people to know is that even today we have married women among us and they are doing wonderfully well in various capacities. Some of them are producers, some directors, some artistes and so on, it is just a matter of how one sees the business and what one wants to achieve from it.
The issue is that the moment they get married, other people fill up their places and when they return after the marriages collapse, it takes them time to reclaim their positions.
In Hausa society, the issue of failed marriage is a common phenomenon and most times if an actress is involved in that kind of matrimonial crisis people tend to assume it is her fault simply because she is from the industry. However, some of us feel reluctant to assign roles to them, maybe to stay safe from their matrimonial crisis.
Recently there was a case involving one of our actresses who got married to a particular man and it didn’t last. When we investigated the issue, we discovered that the man didn’t want her to get pregnant. When she took in, he tried fervently to terminate the pregnancy but it was not successful and when she gave birth, he divorced her.
WM: What successes did the industry record last year?
Kwalle: For the first time in the history of this great industry, last year we had a successful election in a bid to make our practice more organized. And when we assumed office as elected representatives, we tried to build strong ties with the government for the mutual benefit of both the practitioners and the larger society.
The best so far recorded is the training of 450 practitioners by the state government and I think this is something that has never happened in this industry over the past 30 years of its existence.
WM: Were there challenges?
Kwalle: Yes, there is no success without difficulties. Our major challenges are from the practitioners themselves because they are yet to understand the importance of the guild, what it entails and what it can do for them and their obligations to it.
Another issue of concern has to do with the recruitment of new members. Instead of bringing development to the industry, most of them are here to cause disintegration. We have had incidences where some of the artistes were arrested with our ID cards in places where celebrities were not supposed to be found.
Sometimes I would get calls from Hisbah that some members of the industry have been arrested at obscure places. That is why we re-introduced this ID card which we are issuing to the practitioners with strong warning that any member caught in such obscure places with our ID card will be severely dealt with.