Representing Boka and His Art of Medicine in Hausa Dramatic Traditions


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of Theatre and Performing Arts


This study examines the representation of Boka (the medicine man) in Hausa dramatic traditions. The main function of Boka is healing through application of herbs to individuals afflicted by all conceivable ailments, physical and psychological. Boka's holistic medicine is still in demand even with rapid social transformation. However, despite the challenges of modernity, institutionalized religions of Islam and Christianity are resolutely opposed to Bokaye (plural of Boka). The placebo effect, shamanistic slant and the abracadabra associated with Boka's medicine have since transformed this practice into an art. Bokanci is now turned into an object of mimicry, which is elsewhere appropriated for popular entertainment, by especially those who view it as a form of medical quackery. This study seeks to find out why, despite attempts to undermine Bokanci by dominant social and cultural structures in Hausa society, the practice continues to endure and appeals to popular imagination through dramatic performances.