1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kano

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KANO, one of the most important provinces of the British protectorate of Northern Nigeria. It includes the ancient emirates of Kano, Katsena, Daura and Kazaure, and covers an area of about 31,000 sq. m. The sub-province of Katagum was incorporated with Kano in 1905, and is included within this area. The population of the double province is estimated at about 2,250,000.

Kano was one of the original seven Hausa states. Written annals carry the record of its kings back to about A.D. 900. Legendary history goes back much further. It was conquered by the Songhoi (Songhay) in the early part of the 16th century, and more than once appears to have made at least partial submission to Bornu. Mahommedanism was introduced at a period which, according to the system adopted for the dating of the annals, must be placed either in the 12th or the 14th century. The Hausa system of government and taxation was adopted by the Fula when in the early part of the 19th century that Mahommedan people overran the Hausa states. It has been erroneously stated that the Fula imposed Mahommedanism on the Hausa states. The fact that they adopted the existing system of government and taxation, which are based upon Koranic law, would in itself be sufficient proof that this was not the case. But the annals of Kano distinctly record the introduction and describe the development of Mahommedanism at an early period of local history.

The capital is the city of Kano, situated in 12° N. and 8° 20′ E., 220 m. S.S.E. of Sokoto and 500 N.E. of Lagos. It is built on an open plain, and is encompassed by a wall 11 m. in perimeter and pierced by thirteen gates. The wall is from 30 to 50 ft. high and about 40 ft. thick at the base. Round the wall is a deep double ditch, a dwarf wall running along its centre. The gates are simply cow-hide, but are set in massive entrance towers. Only about a third of the area (71/4 sq. m.) enclosed by the walls is inhabited nor was the whole space ever occupied by buildings, the intention of the founders of the city being to wall in ground sufficient to grow food for the inhabitants during a siege. The arable land within the city is mainly on the west and north; only to the south-east do the houses come right to the walls. Within the walls are two steep hills, one, Dala, about 120 ft. high being the most ancient quarter of the town. Dala lies north-west. To its east is a great pond, the Jakara, 11/2 m. long, and by its north-east shore is the market of the Arab merchants. Here also was the slave market. The palace of the emir, in front of which is a large open space, is in the Fula quarter in the south-east of the city. The palace consists of a number of buildings covering 33 acres and surrounded by a wall 20 to 30 ft. high. The architecture of the city is not without merit. The houses are built of clay with (generally) flat roofs impervious to fire. Traces of Moorish influence are evident and the horseshoe arch is common. The audience hall of the emir’s palace—25 ft. sq. and 18 ft. high—is decorated with designs in black, white, green and yellow, the yellow designs (formed of micaceous sand) glistening like gold. The dome-shaped roof is supported by twenty arches.

The city is divided into fourteen quarters, each presided over by a headman, and inhabited by separate sections of the community. It is probably the greatest commercial city in the central Sudan. Other towns, like Zaria, may do as much trade, but Kano is pre-eminent as a manufacturing centre. The chief industry is the weaving of cloth from native grown cotton. Leather goods of all kinds are also manufactured, and from Kano come most of the “morocco leather” goods on the European markets. Dyeing is another large trade, as is the preparation of indigo. Of traders there are four distinct classes. They are: (1) Arabs from Tripoli, who export ostrich feathers, skins and ivory, and bring in burnouses, scents, sweets, tea, sugar, &c.; (2) Salaga merchants who import kola nuts from the hinterland of the Guinea Coast, taking in exchange cloth and live stock and leather and other goods; (3) the Asbenawa traders, who come from the oases of Asben or Air with camels laden with salt and “potash” (i.e. sodium carbonates), and with herds of cattle and sheep, receiving in return cotton and hardware and kolas; (4) the Hausa merchants. This last class trades with the other three and despatches caravans to Illorin and other places, where the Kano goods, the “potash” and other merchandise are exchanged for kolas and European goods. The “potash” finds a ready sale among the Yorubas, being largely used for cooking purposes. In Kano itself is a great market for livestock: camels, horses, oxen, asses and goats being on sale.

Besides Hausa, who represent the indigenous population, there are large colonies of Kanuri (from Bornu) and Nupians in Kano. The Fula form the aristocratic class. The population is said to amount to 100,000. About a mile and a half east of Kano is Nassarawa, formerly the emir’s suburban residence, but since 1902 the British Residency and barracks.

The city of Kano appears on the map of the Arab geographer, Idrisi, A.D. 1145, and the hill of Dala is mentioned in the earliest records as the original site of Kano. Barth, however, concluded that the present town does not date earlier than the second half of the 16th century, and that before the rise of the Fula power (c. 1800) scarcely any great Arab merchant ever visited Kano. The present town may be the successor of an older town occupying a position of similar pre-eminence. Kano submitted to the Fula without much resistance, and under them in the first half of the 19th century flourished greatly. It was visited by Hugh Clapperton, an English officer, in 1824, and in it Barth lived some time in 1851 and again in 1854. Barth’s descriptions of the wealth and importance of the city attracted great attention in Europe, and Kano was subsequently visited by several travellers, missionaries, and students of Hausa, but none was permitted to live permanently in the city. In the closing years of the century, Kano became the centre of resistance to British influence, and the emir, Alieu, was the most inveterate of Fula slave raiders. In February 1903 the city was captured by a British force under Colonel T. L. N. Morland, and a new emir, Abbas, a brother of Alieu, installed.

After the occupation by the British in 1903 the province was organized for administration on the same system as that adopted throughout northern Nigeria. The emir on his installation takes an oath of allegiance to the British Crown, and accepts the position of a chief of the first class under British rule. A resident is placed at his court, and assistant residents have their headquarters in the administrative districts of the province. British courts of justice are established side by side with the native courts throughout the province. Taxation is assessed under British supervision and paid into the native treasury. A fixed portion is paid by the emir to the British government. The emir is not allowed to maintain a standing army, and the city of Kano is the headquarters of the British garrison. The conditions of appointment of the emirs are fully laid down in the terms accepted at Sokoto on the close of the Sokoto-Kano campaign of 1903. Since the introduction of British rule there has been no serious trouble in the province. The emir Abbas worked loyally with the British and proved himself a ruler of remarkable ability and intelligence. He was indefatigable in dispensing justice, and himself presided over a native court in which he disposed of from fifty to a hundred cases a month. He also took an active interest in the reform and reorganization of the system of taxation, and in the opening of the country to trade. He further showed himself helpful in arranging difficulties which at times arose in connexion with the lesser chiefs of his province.

The province of Kano is generally fertile. For a radius of 30 m. round the capital the country is closely cultivated and densely populated, with some 40 walled towns and with villages and hamlets hardly half a mile apart. Kano district proper contains 170 walled towns and about 450 villages. There are many streams, but water is chiefly obtained from wells 15 to 40 ft. deep. The principal crops are African grains, wheat, onions, cotton, tobacco, indigo, with sugar-cane, cassava, &c. The population is chiefly agricultural, but also commercial and industrial. The chief industries are weaving, leather-making, dyeing and working in iron and pottery. Cattle are abundant. (See Nigeria: History; and Sokoto.)

Consult the Travels of Heinrich Barth (new ed., London, 1890); Hausaland, by C. H. Robinson (London, 1896); Northern Nigeria, by Sir F. D. Lugard, in vol. xxii. Geographical Journal (London, 1904); A Tropical Dependency, by Lady Lugard (London, 1905); the Colonial Office Reports on Northern Nigeria from 1902 onward, and other works cited under Nigeria.  (F. L. L.)