The Embodiment of Kunya Among Hausa Women of Kano, Nigeria


The purpose of this study is to analyse the concept of kunya in relation to Hausa Muslim women in Kano, Nigeria, to understand their life from their experiences of kunya, and to identify its relation to the role of honour and shame. Kunya can be defined as multiple interrelated emotions such as shame, embarrassment, bashfulness, and shyness. Kunya can also refer to modesty, rudeness, and disgrace. An emphasis on kunya as modesty will largely be the focus of this paper in order to clearly define what this means for women who have been misrepresented previously as having a “hidden muted autonomy” (Callaway 1984, 449). An examination of the boundaries of the public/private dichotomy of space in the practice of matan kulle (gender segregation) is the primary way to understand the Hausa women’s embodiment of kunya. This dichotomy is integral to knowing what it means to be Hausa, and to understanding the role of honour and shame in their relationships. The Hausa display of kunya indicates a necessity for cultivating and preserving modesty—a key aspect of Hausa women’s identity within the community.
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