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Gidan Makama Museum: Kano’s History Nexus



Gidan Makama Museum or Kano Museum is situated in Kano. This building served as temporary palace of Kano before the current palace Gidan Rumfa was constructed in the 15th century. It has significant collections of arts, crafts and items of historic interest related to the Kano area. Located in a 15th-century historical building which is recognised as a National Monument by government, the museum is divided into many galleries, each with their own centre of focus. Galleries include the Zaure in the main entrance with displays of traditional materials, city walls and maps of Kano, the history of statehood, Kano in the 19th century, the Civil War, economy, industry and music.

Gidan Makama Museum is one of the thirty-two Museums under the National Commission for Museums and Monument. It is located in the heart of Kano Old City, opposite the Emir’s Palace. Gidan Makama (Makama’s House) is both a National Monument and a Museum. It is known for its traditional architectural excellence. It has superb historical and ethnographic collections on Kanawa civilization and Hausa land in general.

Gidan Makama was built in the 15th Century A.D by Emir Abdullahi Burja as residential complex for Rumfa his grandson. Prince Rumfa was later appointed the Makaman Kano, Heir Apparent to the Emir. This explains why the house is referred to as Gidan Makama, though some prefer to refer to the complex as Gidan Rumfa. When Rumfa moved to his new Palace, the subsequent Makama’s continued to use the complex as their Official residence a situation that more or less persists till date.

The complex was split into three. The West most sectors houses the Museum, while the central area is used by the Makama and the east most area houses two educational institutions.

The Museum Frontage

Items exhibited here are huge pots excavated by archaeologists at Kofar Kabuga. There are various explanations as to the use of these pots. A tradition states that they were buried along the city-walls by Kings of Kano for protection. Another version states that the pots were kept underground for storage of grains. Ethno-archaeological research however suggests that they could have been associated with cloth dying industry for which Kano has been famous for several centuries.

Two cannons are exhibited at the entrance. They were abandoned by the Colonial conquerors in Kano. They are believed to have been part of the arsenals with which the British conquered Kano in 1903. The canons were discovered at a Military barracks at Bompai, Kano.

Gallery One: Zaure

Zaure is the main entrance of a typical Hausa building. Exhibited in this gallery are items related to traditional architecture materials like Makuba, Azara, Jakarsa Gashin jima etc. and pictures of historical buildings in Kano. The original Gate of Kofar Waika (one of the Kano City Gates) is also exhibited here it has an inscription on it which is believed to be the earliest public inscription on the door against the enemies of Kano.

Gallery Two: City Walls and Early Maps of Kano

There is a small section on the archaeology of Kano. There are samples of archaeological findings of the late Stone Age and early Iron Age which gives a glimpse of populations living and around the Dala hill at these periods. Another set of displays here focuses on the evolution of Kano city as depicted by the pattern of the city wall. The various maps by early explorers and (2) Travellers though with varying degrees of accuracy gave interesting pictures of the expansion of Kano City by the nineteenth century.

Gallery Three: History of Statehood

This gallery depicts the History of Kano City from its foundation to the present day. Oral traditions documents the time of Barbushe (A High Priest) and recounts how he set up the shrine of Tsumburbura and also how he controlled several lesser priests. It also gives the story of strangers to Kano land led by Bagauda and how they imposed themselves on the heirs of Barbushe and the subsequent conflicts they had. Symbols of Kingship and defence are also showcased in the gallery.

Gallery Four: Kano in the 19th Century

This focuses on the history of Kano in the 19th century. There are illustrations, which depict the 19th century Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio, which brought to an end the Habe ruling dynasty in Kano, written by European travelers and explorers like Henry Barth, Hugh Clapperton etc.

Gallery Five: Kano Civil War

The gallery tells the story of Kano civil war (BASASA) and the British invasion of Kano in 1903. The appointment of Mohammadu Tukur against all advice by Musulumi to succeed his father Bello in 1883 as Emir was the main cause of the civil war. Yusuf, his uncle was not happy and along with his brothers declared war on the new Emir. Though, Yusuf died at Garko his allies succeed in flushing Tukur from the palace. Later Aliyu (Sarkin Kano Alu) as installed Emir. The colonial invasion of Kano was sequel to the declaration of Northern Nigeria as a protectorate by the British Government with Lugard as Governor of Kano. When Kano refused to surrender, it was consequently invaded. They broke through Kofar Kabuga and the Emir (Sarkin Kano Alu) was sent to exile to Lokoja where he died. Abbas was installed as Emir by the British Colonial Force.

Gallery Six: The Economy and Durbar

This contains the history of Kano economy from the last five hundred years. Kano had been a centre of commerce in Western Sudan, which attracted traders from all over the world. On display are pottery, textile, and calabash carving of early industry.

Durbar in Kano is well known. The durbar is a four-day colourful event of spectacular parade of Horsemanship to mark the end of Ramadan fasting and 10th of DHUL-HIJJA. The Major events are Hawan Edi, Hawan Daushe, Hawan Nassarawaand Hawan Panisau and Hawan Dorayi. Durbar is also organised for visiting Heads of States. It is almost certain in Kano that patriotism to horsemanship is unspeakable to kingship and allegiance to the kingship cannot be separated from the horsemanship.

Gallery Seven: The Economy

This gallery is about the consolidation of Colonial rule and incorporation of Kano economy into the world capitalist system. The introduction of the first railway line in 1911, the commencement of western education, the provision of electricity and pipe borne water are highlighted.

Gallery Eight: Dar-Al-Islam

As the name suggests, the gallery is all about Islamic heritage of the Kanawa. On display is the information about the pillars of Islam, astrology, copy of hand written Al-Quran, information about the Maliki school of thought, etc.

Gallery Nine: Industry

This gallery contains the products of industries in Kano such as textile, basketry, leather work, etc. The gallery depicts the skilful nature of the Kanawas. The cottage industries that produce the above mentioned products were the backbone of Kano economy long before the arrival of the colonial forces. The products help to define the role of men and women while the design on them defines the status and age grades in Hausa society

Gallery Ten: Music

This gallery contains Kano musical instruments made up of wood, vegetable fibres, aluminium, bowls and other materials. The gallery contains ornaments, which are largely of metal (bracelets, anklets), carving, stone bracelets and beads.

Gallery Eleven: The Madobi Hut

This gallery is about traditional Hausa female room. It showcases their roles in the Hausa society. Exhibits in the room are Tasa, Taskira, Tukurwa Bed, Calabashes stone etc.

Education programmes offered by gidan makama museum, tour guides

The Museum education specialists conduct visitors round the galleries on request by the visitors.

Organised visits

This programme is provided to allow school children and their teachers to go through an exploratory tour of Gidan Makama Museum. Such schools on excursion are required to inform the education unit in advance of their visit. This enables adequate preparation for their reception.

Saturday Art Club

An Art Club is organized for children on Saturdays within the museum premises. This programme is designed to help develop the creativity in children using the Kanawa civilisation as the context of this cultural expression. This programme caters for children between the ages of six and eighteen. There is provision for quarterly exhibition of the art products of the group.

Sallah Fanfare

The museum organizes Sallah fanfares for families to relax during the Sallah celebrations.

Culled from

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