Imagine yourself, half naked, thousands of years ago, trundling in between siblings, parents, grandparents, great grandparents, on a path connected by a narrow strip, going to and fro, seasons after seasons, years after years, as lush winds of the vegetation of what would soon dry up to be the Sahara desert, swirls around. You, your progenies, your ancestors before you, moving, from stretches of land later to be known as Africa, closer through Europe, closer still, rushing back to Africa. Imagine all this, some 50,000 years ago and try, yearn to learn, to sip from the gorge for a taste of the wine of your past, your living history.

*

In the lush mass of water in what some thousand years later will be known as the Sahara desert, Didu and his family prepare for a sojourn up to find greener pastures, as the water in this side of the earth continues to dry up. They will begin to move around the Andes mountains, to the Jewish peninsula, marrying, procreating and living residues of the Didu DNA all over the earth as they follow herds of animals across the earth, grazing, discovering migration paths and silk roads, metamorphosing across years from herds into caravans and bazaars.

*

Scientists in the 21st century, this genomic era, through our genes can tell the story of our ancestors. The story of the multiplicities and intertwining of our histories. According to science, once in an evolutionary blue moon, a random, harmless mutation can occur which is then passed down to all of that person’s descendants. By comparing these markers in many different populations, these scientists then trace ancestral connections and construe details about the evolution of human history as far back as 50,000 years. From this research, the Y-DNA of the Hausa people suggests that the Hausa originally spoke languages of the upper Nile River and the Sahara, before re-mixing it with Afro-asiatic languages after migration some ten thousand years ago.

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Northern Nigeria as a place is a nation of consciousness, with a deep-rooted history, within prisms of shared values. Before Nigeria was a thing, there were bigger pieces, larger than the name conjured out of a river. Hausa Kingdoms were independent political entities. Then the country appeared and these huge dynasties and kingdoms disappeared. Regions appeared to make up a made up country, and then disappeared. And states were formed. It is out of these states that my generation attempt to describe and eschew their histories. I am a product of states of origin and indigene certificates, but my parents are older than the states that hook them, backed by law and a piece of paper with their faces attached to and smeared by an ink stamp, to indigenise and to claim them.

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I grew up with a father obsessed with the deep-rooted history of his identity. Sometimes last year this passion drove him to the USA to unravel portions of what he calls his ‘deep ancestry’. From just his saliva, science isolated his unique DNA. What did it show him? Simple answers. We are humans, we are movers, purely nomadic, we are the little bits and pieces of history.

Using his DNA (and what also makes up my own DNA too) he found that our Hausa genes are spread all over the world, just like the air we breathe; in Europe, Egypt, Jewish diaspora, Saudi Arabia, Central Africa. Spread all over like oceans and waters.  So I ask him, blurt out the question. Why be so obsessed with history? When your DNA is finally stripped layer by layer and you find the seeds of our ancestors and their footpaths in history, then what? What’s in it for you? In his baritone and confident voice he answers, he always has the answers. For one not to know his ancestry … it’s just like he was never born … Dead …

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I am Sada Malumfashi. I have no relationship with Malumfashi. My father does. Maybe. I tend to believe I am a local of Kaduna. A place I know and grew to love. They say I am not an indigene of Kaduna State. Yes my papers and all the legal documents say so. They say I am an indigene of Katsina State. I do not know Katsina, I mean not lots of it. What links me to Katsina State? I do not know, maybe the umbilical cord of my father buried in its hot sands. My father was born in the Northern Region, he is older than Kaduna State, older than Katsina State, Nigeria is in every sense his playmate by age. So how is it then that his state can define him when he was a full grown adult, a University graduate by the time Katsina State was born? Boundaries! Restrictions!

I am Sada. I grew up in a locality of Kaduna, and these are the places my heart identify with, my localities, my history!

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So what is the history of my people? Am I a descendant of Arabs? A Jewish progeny from the sons of Solomon? Am I a product of the myth of the Persian Bayajidda? It is a tricky question. Truth is as a people, we were once Pagans, Animists, Atheists, Christians and now Muslims. We were once Arabs, Fulanis, Berbers, Ethiopians, Maguzawas, Hausas, Hausa/Fulanis, and back to Hausas? So, don’t ask me where I’m from, because I am a descendant of shared DNAs and footprints of history and if history is defined as story of humanity, of how individuals tell their own story, then we also, this generation should be able to decide the footprints of our collective records to enable us accept our new place as the newest citizens in the annals of the Hausa history.

 

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Sada Malumfashi is a writer living in Kaduna. His works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in local and international magazines.

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