KANO, NIGERIA  

KANO IS CLOSE TO MY heart.  I spent about four months there in the l990s researching and writing a book about how husbands and wives relate to each other in marriages that are patriarchal, Islamic and polygamous. For many reasons I wasn't able to finish the book so I went back with my camera in 2011 -- only this time the Hausa people were suspicious. The US had just helped France bomb a third  Muslim country, Libya, and on top of that a fundamentalist, Islamic terrorist group had formed in the far northeast and was making headlines by bombing and killing people. Boko Haram said it wanted to want to take the country back to the Islamic Caliphate, the golden age of pure Islam, but my friends insisted it was more likely the CIA was funding the group to destabilize Nigeria and get its oil. Even my fixer, a journalist himself, believed this.  

Click image for gallery 

  Typical street scene in Kano: the truck on the right is spewing out exhaust, there are no helmets in site, and people cross all the roads whenever they can as there are no crosswalks or stoplights.  

Typical street scene in Kano: the truck on the right is spewing out exhaust, there are no helmets in site, and people cross all the roads whenever they can as there are no crosswalks or stoplights.  

I don't mean Nigerians weren't glad to see me; they were, especially rural Nigerians. I was entertaining, with my big camera, and I told them I wanted to photograph things that were good about Africa; things that worked without aid from NGOs. I did see children and adults wearing rags, but I also saw what I had learned to admire: the traditional, extended family life where no one ever has to be alone, and the religion, the Koran   

and the Hadiths, which offer good lessons for people living together peacefully. I tried photographing the traditional Hausa leaders whose job it is to solve problems in their village or neighborhood, but the visuals were all the same: a bunch of men sitting in a circle on mats. 

See what I finally found in the next gallery. Click on the above image to see Kano and the villages around it.