Dear Friend

Let me tell you a quick story,
In an ancient town, not too far from Karaye in present-day Gwarzo Local Government of Kano State, a warrior princess was about to be wed. She loved her groom, even though he knew nothing about combat. So, when she spotted some vengeful enemies galloping towards her ceremony from a distance, she knew neither he nor her bridesmaids would join her to fight and so she remembered one of her father’s magic spells and turned her entire wedding entourage into stone.

The enemies arrived in confusion, they were so sure they had heard the music and seen the dancing from afar, was it all a mirage? They left the strange rock in disappointment. A small problem remained. The princess had spent less time with her father learning magic than she had learning war. She couldn’t recall the spell necessary to return them to flesh and to this day, travelers bound for Katsina from Kano can stop at the Dutsen Amare or ‘Bride Rock’ to knock on it and hear the rattling dishes and wedding crockery trapped with the centuries’ old bride and her guests.

Would the Dutsen Amare be present today if the bride had paid more attention to her father’s spiritual practices? The consequences of this disconnect from old traditions and spiritual practices is present in Carl Terver’s essay ‘Moni Wata’ as his investigation of mermaid appearances in Tiv Masqurade culture becomes a personal inquiry of how much heritage has been lost to urbanization, colonization and Abrahamic religions. It is towards reclamation and preservation of what is left that he and a number of contributors in this maiden issue write.
As Blessing Tarfa writes in her essay exploring the sophisticated animist system in her matrilineal ancestry and contemporary implications of climate change to the ‘Mutu’ spiritual practice in her hometown ‘I envision myself in the moment as a vessel of this history too, that I do not succumb to the passive knowledge of my mother’s history and inadvertently participate in its erasure.’ This is the work this issue attempts with its offerings in prose, comic, poetry and visual art centering Northern and North-Central Nigeria. 

In another version of the Dutsen Amare legend, the bride was just a bride, returning from her wedding ceremony with her friends and family, when they got trapped in the middle of a war. With no way forward or back, they prayed to be turned into rocks, making them invincible to the oncoming army. Regardless of which version is true, the rock is present today, with the occasional offering of perfumes and kolanuts, a testament (as its origins) to the human instinct to resort to supernatural solutions when there is no hope. Depending on which religious factor you belong or don’t belong to, this practice is Juju. A fraction of the Nigerian populace would argue it is not real, where was Juju during slave trade and colonization? It is however a punishable offence in the Nigerian constitution and if found guilty of ‘practicing juju’ you could be jailed for two years. The French form ‘JouJou’ which can be ‘plaything’ is evocative of control dolls wielders fashion to invoke pain or destruction on the humans they have been modeled after in so many West African spiritual traditions. Some argue that Juju originates from Hausa, meaning ‘fetish’ or ‘evil spirit’. Practitioners and insist that Juju is neither good nor evil, it depends on the user. It is my delight to have this Juju issue of Za! in your hands and have you decide.

TJ Benson
9th June 2023
Moniwata │ Carl Terver
Something Strange in Adamawa │ Blessing Tarfa
Book Review
Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s The House of Rust │ Habiba Malumfashi
"Za! is derived from the word for ‘Go’ in Tiv, a language from North Central Nigeria.

Jara is a word for ‘Extra’ that now belongs to everybody in the country.

Za! Magazine and Jara Supplement are produced by Za! Publications, a company that exists to create and curate experimental art."