Striking a Balance between Privacy and Guest Hospitality in the Muslim house: a case of the Katsina urban Hausa traditional house

 

3.0 Discussion

3.1 Hospitality and Privacy in the public zone of the house, kofar gida.

The entrance hall, zaure (1) In Figures 1, serves as the only entry and exit point to the urban traditional house, it forms part of the surrounding high perimeter fence, and could be single or multiple depending on the economic status of the house owner. Being the only access point, the higher the number of zaures, the further the family is from the kofar gida. Some zaures consists of rooms for accommodating adolescent male children, or a shop shago, while some do not. They come in various configurations, depending on restrictions imposed by space and the skill of the builder. As a privacy element, it serves as the first screen between the outside world of strangers, male visitors and the inner part of the house as shown in Figures 2(a-d). In these figures, four different configurations of zaures are shown indicating different spatial arrangements. For example, Figure 1(a) has only one zaure with its entrance and exit which leads to the forecourt, sarari, (3). An intermediary wall (a) which is lower than the roof serves as a screen between the two doors. Before accessing the main house, one is confronted with a blank wall (b) leading to two the other open doorways, partitioned by other screen walls (c), and (d) At the entry point of the sarari. This type of arrangement is prevalent in houses where boy’s room was not provided within the zaure.

In zaure (1), Figures 2(a), the householder, maigida receives his guests’ mostly unrelated guests such as friends, neighbors, and business partners. Adolescent sons with no room also receive their friends here. They are preferably received at the first zone of the zaure (shaded area). A straw mat is the furniture for receiving guest in the zaure. Two privacy goals are achieved while providing the required hospitality: the guests while being entertained were prevented from “looking” at the sarari (3), which is considered a zone for household members, and secondly, the second zone of the zaure being effectively screened from the first, provided an avenue for women coming from the cikin gida to indicate their presence and intension to ‘pass’, hence, serves as hijab (veil) for the passing women. Visual privacy is thus achieved while entertaining guests through a ‘three level approach; ingenious positioning of  zaure entrance and exit doors (d1) and (d2), provision of a screen wall between the two doors, and non provision of windows on any of the zaure’s walls which could have allowed view to the interior of the house.

In the second zaure configuration, Figure 2(b), bedroom (2) and a second zaure (1a) have been introduced thus the three level approaches have been reduced spatially, to a “two level approach”. The adolescent sons still used the zaure as their sleeping place. As the entrance door (d1) was located on the right side of the zaure, the left side of the zaure is used to receive the guest (shaded area). The second zaure is also used to receive guests in rare cases, for example when the first one proves inadequate to accommodate the number of guests. In this situation, a straw mat is used to prevent views of the interior of the house, Schwedtfeger, (1972). Visual privacy is thus achieved by: location of zaure entrance and exit doors (d1) and (d2) on opposite direction, to prevent direct views to the interior of the house, introduction of second zaure 1(a) and where the second zaure was used, the straw mat hung to the second door (d2) provided the required privacy. Overnight male guests are accommodated in the first zaure. Because of the role for receiving unrelated visitors, and strangers amongst others, the interior of the zaure (especially the ceiling and the walls) is the most decorated part of the house as (Oumar, 1997; Schwetfeger, 1972).

Figure 2(a-d) Four spatial configurations of zaure to achieve privacy in the public zone  (kofar gida) Source: Field Survey, 2008
Figure 2(a-d) Four spatial configurations of zaure to achieve privacy in the public zone (kofar gida) Source: Field Survey, 2008

Figure 2(a-d) Four spatial configurations of zaure to achieve privacy in the public zone

(kofar gida) Source: Field Survey, 2008

 

In the third configuration, Figure 2©, two functionally distinct zaures 1(a) and 1(b), are found, with a room (2), the entrance of which is within the second zaure 1(b). The second zaure act a separate entity unlike in the previous case. The adolescent sons are accommodated in this room. In addition to providing accommodation to the adolescent sons, the room is used to receive and entertain related male visitors to the maigida or his wife’s, such as uncles, brothers, brother’s in-laws, and nephews unless turaka is provided (13). Unrelated male visitors such as neighbors, friends, and strangers were received in the first zaure, 1(a) the shaded area (sh1). Family privacy is thus achieved through the provision of two zaures (in some cases more) to entertain unrelated male visitors, and the provision of multi-functional room in the second zaure to receive and entertain related male visitors. In the last zaure configuration Figure 2(d), adolescent sons room is in the first zaure 1(a). And because of space restrictions in most cases recorded during survey, unrelated male visitors, guests and strangers were received in the second zaure1(b, sh1) except in situations where the first zaure 1(a) was spacious enough. Overnight guests pass the night in the boys room while the boys uses the second zaure pending the departure of the guests. Privacy is achieved by receiving visitors and guests either in the second zaure 1(b) or in most cases in the boy’s bedroom in the first zaure, and accommodating overnight male strangers in the boy’s room in the first zaure. In general, windows provided, if any, for the rooms and zaure are very small and placed high up.

3.2 Hospitality and privacy in the semi-private (master wing) or Turaka

In Figures 1(a and b), the master wing turaka is located between the public zone of the house kofar gida, and the most private zone of the house cikin gida– the women area. It is the semi-private zone of the Hausa traditional house, and its transitional zone. With its open courtyard 13(a), verandah (6), rumfa 13(b), a bedroom 13(c) and toilet (9) Figures 3(a-c), it is in some way a house of its own.  It requires an ingenious design solution to provide such a configuration to facilitate accessibility from forecourt sarari/barga, to the women area cikin gida through a second entrance shigifa (4) and most importantly to provide views to the sarari for monitoring of movements by the maigida from his courtyard or rumfa in the turaka (interviews with the local builders). The Figures 3(a-c ) indicated such complex configurations where low-level fence (x) or open door way separates the turaka and sarari/barga, which allows the maigida to screen and monitor movements to and from the women area cikin gida, through the second entrance shigifa from his turaka.

Figures 3 (a-c) Three spatial configurations of (semi-private zone) turaka, where different guests are received and entertained at different level (space). Source: Field Survey, 2008

 

In addition to the adolescent sons who are still under the household head, visitors and guests received here are men related to the householder maigida such as his sons having their own families but not living in the house, uncles, cousins, nephews and others considered as members of the household such as male servants, and son in-laws.  Adult sons of his wife or wives from previous marriages and suitors (usually in group) wishing to greet the potential mother in-law are received and entertained in the second entrance hall shigifa. Beyond the shigifa only male children under the age of puberty and women were allowed in, this informs the location of the turaka in between the kofar gida and gida cikin. No male servant is expected to go beyond the sarari/barga or danfili, (3), unless needed by the maigida at his turaka. Total male strangers were not allowed beyond the kofar gida. In this zone, different guests or visitors are offered hospitality at different levels. For example, in the verandah (6) of the turaka, visitors such as cousins, sons-in-laws, nephews, suitors and grown-up sons having their individual families but not living in the house are received. In exceptional circumstances the grown up sons could be received and entertained in his living room rumfa (13b), which is essentially used to receive uncles, parents, and parent’s in-laws. Visual privacy for the women members of the family is ensured by the provision of the second entrance hall shigifa (4), which restricts accessibility to the cikin gida to only underage male children and women, the low level fence(in contrast to external perimeter fence) or open doorway which separates the turaka and the sarari. This architectural wall attribute allows monitoring of movements to-and from the women zone cikin gida.

 

 

 

3.3 Hospitality and privacy in the most private (women) zone, Cikin gida

As in the previous cases of kofar gida and turaka, the cikin gida also comes in various configurations.    As shown in Figure 4(a-c), consistent elements documented in most private zone consisted of women bedrooms (7), varendah (6), rumfa(6a), kitchen(8), defined courtyard(5), area dedicated for animal pen, and the room of the household head in the absence of the turaka. The number of bedrooms in part depends on the number of wives in the house which is a function of the number of married sons living with their parents in the house in a multi-family house (Oumar, 1997). The number of rooms in a single family house which is the subject of our concern ranges between two to five averages. In the first configuration, Figure 4(a), two separate bedrooms are identified, both sharing a verandah, which served as rumfa (living) for the two rooms. Figure 4(b) indicated two functionally independent rooms but sharing a common rumfa (6a) together, and verandah (6). The two rooms were accessed through the same living area (6a).The third configuration indicated two separate bedrooms (7), each with its own living area rumfa (6a) and accessible independent of each other, although sharing the same verandah (6). In general, female guests and strangers received in the most private zone include aunts, daughter’s in-law, sisters, and mother’s in-laws, unrelated female friends of grown-up daughters, and strangers who may have came to attend social functions such as wedding and naming ceremonies through mutual friends.

Figures 4 (a-c) Three different rooms configurations of to achieve privacy in the most private zone (cikin gida)   Sourec: Field Survey 2008
Figures 4 (a-c) Three different rooms configurations of to achieve privacy in the most private zone (cikin gida) Sourec: Field Survey 2008

Figures 4 (a-c) Three different rooms configurations of to achieve privacy in the most private zone (cikin gida)

Sourec: Field Survey 2008

 

In the first Figure (4a), the verandah is used to receive and entertain female friends to daughters, total strangers, and not-too-close friends to the wives. Accessibility to the bedroom is restricted only to the closely related persons such as sisters, aunts, mothers and mother’s in-laws. In the second configuration, Figure 4b, the common living area rumfa (6a) is used to receive mutual guests of the wives such as neighbors, their mother in-law, sisters, sister’s in-laws, and female friends of daughters. In the bedrooms (7), mothers and aunts were received. Total strangers, distant relations, and not-so-close friends were entertained at the verandah (6). In the last configuration, Figure (4c), mothers are essentially received and entertained in the main bedroom kurya (7). Others such as mother’s in-laws, sisters, and aunts are received in the living area rumfa (6a). In the verandah hospitality is offered to strangers, and not-so-close friends. In this zone therefore, during the day privacy which is essentially acoustic is achieved by setting of social distance between and among family members and between unrelated female visitors and female members of the house hold. Privacy provision seemed to be hierarchical, depending on the number of rooms and spaces available.

In general, acoustic privacy is achieved through a spatial arrangement by the local builders to achieve the greatest depth possible between the most private area and the public area (Sa’ad, 1981). This is achieved by placing entrance hall zaure at the corner of the plot if it was a square placing the women area at the opposite corner diagonally (Figure 5). The longer the diagonal distance achieved the more the depth, and thus, the higher the acoustic privacy achieved between the most private and the public areas. Acoustic privacy is also accentuated by the thickness of the wall. In the documented house, majority of the walls were as much as 1.000m thick, which reduces sound penetration from either the most private or public areas of the house.

Figure 5. A general design concept of Hausa traditional house to achieve the greatest possible depth         between the most private and public areas to achieve acoustic privacy. Source: Survey, 2008
Figure 5. A general design concept of Hausa traditional house to achieve the greatest possible depth between the most private and public areas to achieve acoustic privacy. Source: Survey, 2008

Figure 5. A general design concept of Hausa traditional house to achieve the greatest possible depth

between the most private and public areas to achieve acoustic privacy. Source: Survey, 2008

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