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Kano City Walls: Ancient Hausa artistry

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By Abraham Adekunle

Was this Northern Nigeria’s version of the Great Wall of China?

In faraway Asia, the Great Wall of China has bedazzled every tourist and curious person about the ancient site. At over 20,000 km long, the Great Wall of China has been said of as being one of the greatest works of art of humans. It was built for over 2,000 years by about nine dynasties. However, there is a miniaturized version of this wall in West Africa: the ancient Kano City Walls which were 14 km long and were built to protect the inhabitants of Kano.

The ancient Kano City Walls (known as “Kofar Na’isa” in Hausa language) were defensive walls built from the 11th century (from 1095 AD through 1134 AD) and completed in the 14th century. According to World Heritage Sites, the ancient City Walls were described as “the most impressive monument in West Africa.” The foundation of the walls was laid by Sarki Gijimasu, who was the third king of the Kingdom of Kano from 1095 to 1134 and was the son of Warisi and Yanas.

Lord Lugard said that he had not seen a wall like that in all of Africa.

Bawuro M. Barkindo of the Department of History at Bayero University (Kano) writes that after the arrival of the colonial masters, the then Governor-General of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria, Lord Fredrick Lugard, wrote in a 1903 report after capturing Kano alongside British forces that he had never seen anything like it in Africa. The walls were completed during the reign of Zamnagawa in the 14th century. It was further expanded in the 16th century.

The ancient Walls of Kano are made up of Dala Hill (a 534-meter-high hill that contains a stairway with 999 steps to the top and a settlement that dates back to the 10th century), Kurmi Market, and the Emir of Kano’s Palace. The walls were about 50 feet high, and about 40 feet thick at the base. The walls were topped with rampart walk. The builders further dug trenches in front of the walls to further protect the ancient city.

Over 80% of the wall has been destroyed by various factors.

In 2018, the curator of the Gidan Makama Museum in Kano, Mustapha Bachaka, told the press, “If you look at the wall generally, almost 80 percent of it has been destroyed.” He added that despite efforts being made to put the Kano City Walls on the World Heritage Site map, people have continued to abuse the ancient site. In 2007, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) applied to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to put Kano City Walls on the World Heritage Site list.

Presently, the Kano City Walls have been put on the Tentative List. Aliya Abdu from the NCMM said that the Kano State Government is the main cause of the destruction of the ancient site. He said that the state government was giving out land around the walls to political supporters as compensation. This has aided the degradation of the city walls and encroachment of the site. People who did not build residence where the walls once stood simply broke off the clay and used it as building materials elsewhere.

Will the ancient Kano City Walls finally disappear?

The ancient Kano City Walls has about 14 gates, all of which have almost been destroyed. Two of those gates have been repaired and repainted in attempts to restore the heritage site, but the Kano State Government has said that renovating the site is not its priority right now. Aliya Abdu in a review wrote, “Though seriously encroached, Kano City Wall still remains an intriguing testimony of African indigenous use of its architecture to define political space, defense and security system, labor organization and management, etc.”


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Taiwoo
Taiwoo
1 year ago

As a form of reparation, the state government began distributing land around the walls to supporters of various political candidates.

Hassan Isa
Hassan Isa
1 year ago

Despite the fact that it has been severely damaged, the Kano City Wall continues to be an amazing evidence to the way African indigenous people used their architecture to create political space.

Chibuzor
Chibuzor
1 year ago

After participating in the capture of Kano alongside British soldiers in 1903, Lord Fredrick Lugard remarked in a report that he had never seen anything in Africa that was comparable to it.

Godsewill Ifeanyi
Godsewill Ifeanyi
1 year ago

As a form of reparation, the state government began distributing land around the walls to supporters of various political candidates.

Kazeem1
Kazeem1
1 year ago

The walls reached a height that is massive and a huge feet at their base, A rampart walk was constructed on top of the walls. In order to provide an additional layer of defense for the ancient city, the constructors excavated trenches in front of the walls and this is good

Adesanyaj72
Adesanyaj72
1 year ago

People who did not build residences where the walls had been tore off the clay and utilized it as building materials elsewhere, which was not a nice thing to do.

Nwachukwu Kingsley
Nwachukwu Kingsley
1 year ago

This is something that we’re supposed to monetize, because the building is very astonishing and beautiful to see, foreigners would love it

Abusi
Abusi
1 year ago

This really speaks volume of our heritage as a people. The Kano city walls must have been built and designed by the ancient hausa and Fulani people that first lived there. The beauty of the wall is so profound that it is seen as a national heritage. It is unfortunate all these things are going into extinction.

Christiana
Christiana
1 year ago

As a form of recompense, the state government began distributing land around the walls to those who supported certain political candidates. The deterioration of the city walls and the encroachment onto the site have both been facilitated by this.

Tolaniiii
Tolaniiii
1 year ago

In order to strengthen the defenses of the old city, its builders constructed additional ditches in front of the walls.

Bola12
Bola12
1 year ago

In West Africa, there is a miniature counterpart of this wall: the old Kano City Walls, which were 14 kilometers long and intended to defend the people of Kano.

Haykaylyon26
Haykaylyon26
1 year ago

This is a nice wall build by the Hausa people in other to defend themselves and it is a long wall which can be similar to great war of China this is part of our national heritage

Ultra0711
Ultra0711
1 year ago

Kano City Wall still remains an intriguing testimony of African indigenous use of its architecture to design spectacular things. Its look alone is astounding.

Iyanu12345ogg
Iyanu12345ogg
1 year ago

The ancient Kano City Walls must not destroyed it has and served as place of refuge for the Fulani’s. It should be taken as national heritage and not to be casted away.

theApr
theApr
1 year ago

This is a national heritage which should be preserved for historic purpose, among others. With the current state of deterioration of the wall, it might finally be non-existent. 80% of the wall has been destroyed, and all of that. This isn’t good enough

Remi1
Remi1
1 year ago

You want Kano City Walls on the World Heritage Site list, buh you are not doing enough to uphold the dignity of the heritage. The government should do more to ensure proper maintenance of these structures.

Tonerol10
Tonerol10
1 year ago

His history and ancient building and structure is very important for tourism. All this ancient building was build with good material that is why those buildings are up till date

SarahDiv
SarahDiv
1 year ago

When you have Fulani has the Governor of Kano what do you expect, is it to preserve the culture of the Hausa? I doubt it.

DimOla
DimOla
1 year ago

The governor of Kano state has shown as a Fulani man that he is not for the interest of the Hausa therefore he can’t preserve their cultural heritage.

jdpumping
jdpumping
1 year ago

The Kano city walls that is suppose to be a tourist attraction and cultural heritage for the benefits of the people yet the government does not seem it fit to be repaired and repainted.

Adeolastan
Adeolastan
1 year ago

Nigeria really lack maintenance culture and that’s why we are loosing our artifacts and even most of our cultural heritage has gone.All if all this is properly maintain it will generate income also serve as source of creating jobs for masses.