Yazi Dogo – trip description
Yazi Dogo arrived in Boston on the 27th of July 2005 from the Republic of Niger as the guest of WARA. His trip is specifically funded by the ALMA project (the African Language Materials Archive project) which gathers African literatures in African languages and posts them on WARA’s ALMA website. He has been hosted in the town of West Newbury, MA by John Hutchison, the coordinator of the ALMA project.
Yazi Dogo is the head of a Hausa language theater group in Niger that has become famous throughout West Africa in the thirty years or more that they have been performing. The troop performs traditional comedy theater in Hausa which is the major language of Niger, spoken by nearly 50% of the population as a first language and as a second language by another 40% of the population. The troop is called in Hausa: Ƙungiyar Yazi Dogo. Dogo is an extremely well known and popular cultural icon in the Republic of Niger. He is also a professor of Boston University students who participate in BU’s study abroad program in the Republic of Niger, where he teaches a hands-on apprenticeship course in the performing arts that is greatly appreciated by BU students there.
ALMA hopes to also include video and audio materials on their website. For this reason, while Hutchison was in Niger in the summer of 2004, using a camcorder he recorded nearly 5 hours of interviews of Yazi Dogo and his colleagues for the purpose of supplementing the ALMA website and also in the hope of preparing a documentary on the life of Yazi Dogo and his theater troop, and other products relevant to the media in Niger.
Initially it was anticipated that Dogo would remain in the Boston area until the 30th of August. However, on the 28th of July, the day after he arrived, Hutchison took Yazi Dogo to an ophthalmologist in Lawrence, MA since he had been complaining about his eyes. The doctor discovered cataracts in both eyes and recommended surgery. This was the beginning of an epic adventure which began with Hutchison’s contacting Professor Ben Dewinter, Vice President of BU for International Alliances, and also the Director of the Office of International Programs that supervises the program in the Republic of Niger in which Yazi Dogo teaches for BU. This led to contact with Dr. Aram Chobanian, then President of Boston University, and a member of the faculty of the BU Medical School. In short order, President Chobanian intervened on behalf of Yazi Dogo, and the Medical School donated to our visitor a complete surgery for the cataracts in both eyes, and by the next morning all of the facility costs were contributed as well by the Boston Medical Center. Yazi Dogo was overwhelmed by the generosity and extremely relieved by the offer of the medical school and Boston University. This resulted in lengthening considerably his stay in the Boston area, and his new departure date was set for the 19th of September. The operations and the follow-up visits were carried out during August and September, and the results were phenomonal leaving Dogo with better than 20-20 vision.
The additional time resulting from these events, enabled Dogo and Hutchison to invest considerable time in work on the Hausa language video material. The text of the recordings has now been transcribed and word processed and is now in corrected manuscript form. The collaborators used the manuscript to then pick out the material to be included in the documentary of 45 to 60 minutes. The documentary will also be interspersed with video recordings of plays produced by the troop, highlighting the roles played by Dogo as actor. The extra time also enabled Yazi Dogo to begin research on a book that he intends to write in Hausa on the history of Hausa language theater in the Republic of Niger.
by John Hutchison
Summer of 2005