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Shaihu Umar (Arsenal Edition)

SHAIHU UMAR (ARSENAL EDITION) Adamu Halilu, Nigeria 1976, 137 min

Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, SHAIHU UMAR starts with a discussion between Islamic students and their renowned teacher, the wise man Shaihu Umar. Asked about his origins, Umar begins to tell his story: he comes from a modest background and is separated from his mother after his father dies and his stepfather is banished. His subsequent trials and tribulations are marked by slavery, and he is put to any number of tests until he finally becomes the adopted son of his Arabic master Abdulkarim. He attends Koran School and is made an imam upon reaching adulthood. Following a particular dream, he resolves to search for his mother.

Adamu Halilu filmed SHAIHU UMAR in Hausa in 1976. The film is based on the eponymous 1955 novella by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, which has been reprinted many times. Balewa was prime minister of Nigeria from 1957 to 1966. The film was long believed to be lost, but the negatives and prints were rediscovered in the archive of the Nigerian Film Corporation in 2016.


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