Kannywood: Nollywood’s Unmined Reservoir

By Yetunde Adeyeri
ali nuhu and his wife

Nigeria is a country made up of over 120 languages and 70 ethnic groups all with different cultures and traditions. In no news that art is a universal language and one the things that bring people together. Although Nollywood serves as the umbrella Filmmaking in Nigeria, which has been some diversity in the industry over the years. This diversity turned out to be a good thing because now, movies are made with different languages particularly, Yoruba, Ibo, Calabar, and Hausa. All existing peaceably in one space.
kannywood poster

While all these diverse subgroups are doing well exploring their own market, the Hausa movie industry has over the years proven to be an unmined reservoir of resources.

Kannywood is the epithet for the Hausa language cinema. It is a part of the larger Nigerian cinema, known as Nollywood, which includes other production centers producing films in many other Nigerian languages. The name “Kannywood” is a portmanteau derived from Kano and Hollywood, the center of the American film industry.


“Kannywood” has origins in the 1990s, when Sunusi Shehu of Tauraruwa Magazine created the term Kannywood and then it became the popular reference term for the industry. The term “Kannywood” was coined in 1999, three years before the term Nollywood came about.

The 1990s saw a dramatic change in the Hausa language cinema, eager to attract more Hausa audience who find Bollywood movies more attractive, Kannywood; a cinematic synthesis of Indian and Hausa culture evolved and became extremely popular.

Turmin Danya (“The Draw”), 1990, is usually cited as the first commercially successful Kannywood film. It was quickly followed by others like Gimbiya Fatima In Da So Da Kauna, Munkar, Badakala and Kiyarda Da Ni. New actors like Ibrahim Mandawari and Hauwa Ali Dodo became popular and set the stage for the emergence of super-star like female actresses later on.

Growth Over The Years
arewa logo
The 1990s saw a dramatic change in the Hausa language cinema, eager to attract more Hausa audience who find Bollywood movies more attractive, Kannywood; a cinematic synthesis of Indian and Hausa culture evolved and became extremely popular.

Turmin Danya (“The Draw”), 1990, is usually cited as the first commercially successful Kannywood film. It was quickly followed by others like Gimbiya Fatima In Da So Da Kauna, Munkar, Badakala, and Kiyarda Da Ni. New actors like Ibrahim Mandawari and Hauwa Ali Dodo became popular and set the stage for the emergence of super-star like female actresses later on.

By 2012, over 2000 film companies were registered with the Kano State Filmmakers Association.[3]

A local censoring committee created by Kanywood Producers and Marketers was converted into a board and named Kano State Censorship board in 2001 by Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. Mr. Dahiru Beli was appointed the first Executive Secretary of the board.

In 2003, with the rise of the Izala and the coming to power of Ibrahim Shekarau; the then ultrareligious government of Kano initiated an iconoclastic campaign against Kannywood. Numerous movies deemed irreligious were censored and some filmmakers were jailed. This reversed some the gains Kannywood had made and allowed the Southern Nigerian film industry to supersede it.
jamila umar nagudu
In 2007, the Hiyana Affair: when the sex tape of a popular actress became public led to a severe backlash from the then Islamist government of Kano State under Ibrahim Shekarau. Shekarau went on to appoint a Director-General for the censorship board with the support of the Izala Society and other Islamist organizations, Kannywood and the equally popular Hausa romantic novel industry were severely censored, actors, actresses, and writers were jailed by the state government and books and other media materials were burnt by the Governor himself. In 2011 the replacement of the Islamist government by a much more liberal government led by the PDP led to a more favorable atmosphere for the Industry.
sadiq sani sadiq
Today actors like Ali Nuhu, Adam A Zango, Sadiq Sani Sadiq, Hadiza Aliyu, Nafisa Abdullahi, and remain popular within the industry.
adam zango

Arewa 24 Tv
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AREWA24 is a 24/7 Free-to-air, Hausa-language Satellite Television channel launched in Northern Nigeria on Nilesat. The project was started in 2013, sponsored by the United States Department of State with funding of about $5,900,000-$6,500,0001) and is run by Equal Access International, a 501(c) international development and communications organization committed to changing the story for youth, women, and men around the world.
nafisa abdullahi
Some examples of their programs include:
Youth drama and chat shows which develop life skills, give youth a voice, promote young Nigerians’ pride in their culture, and encourage entrepreneurship, collaboration, and mutual respect;
Entertainment and enrichment programs such as children’s TV, women’s lifestyles, sports, music and culture, and cooking, and;
Hausa films and other video productions, including documentaries. AREWA24 is already available to over 80 million Hausa speakers in Nigeria and West Africa through its Eutelsat satellite free-to-air broadcast and on the Multichoice pay platforms as well as GOtv
There is no doubt that kannywood is growing exponentially and in a few years, they will represent Nigeria to the world

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