KANO, NIGERIA  

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THIS CITY, A METROPOLIS of over six million people in Northern Nigeria, is close to my heart. It's overcrowded. It's hot. It's dusty. It's ugly. It's a conservative Muslim city of mostly Hausa people, a large and successful tribe of traders and farmers who helped spread Islam all over West Africa from the 12th century on. I was able to overlook the tribalism in Nigeria when I spent time in Kano in the l990s because my interactions with the people were so rewarding. I loved their laughter, their sweetness, their hospitality and effortless social graces. I loved that Islamic practices and traditional rulers had kept the city remarkably safe. I returned to Kano three times.

When I went back to Kano with my camera in 2010, the terrorist group Boko Haram had started creating havoc and no one wanted to talk about it. When pressed, my friends said it had nothing to do with Islam and was probably dreamed up by the CIA. By then the US was no longer Nigeria's friend; we had just bombed Libya, a Muslim, African country whose leader had favored black Africans over Arabs. For this and other reasons I was often greeted with suspicion and maybe for good reason; Africa is awash in disaster and poverty stories. Some call it "poverty porn."