SHAIHU UMAR: A Nigerian Rediscovery, Restoration, and Representation

#Nigeria #USA: SHAIHU UMAR, directed by Adamu Halilu in 1976, is a notable work of Nigerian cinema that was once thought to be lost. It was *rediscovered* in 2016 when the negatives and prints were found in the Nigerian Film Corporation’s archive.

Berlin-based Arsenal Institute restored the film from the original negative, and it was later acquired for distribution by New York-based ArtMattan Films, the founding sponsor of the touring New York African Diaspora International Film Festival (NYADIFF).

SHAIHU UMAR is based on a novella of the same name by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who served as the first and only prime minister of Nigeria after independence.

Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, the story follows the titular character, Shaihu Umar, an Islamic scholar, as he recounts his life story, marked by modest beginnings, separation from his mother, trials of slavery, and eventual adoption by his Arab master as a son rather than a slave.

The film’s significance lies in its rediscovery as a cultural and historical depiction of Nigeria during a transformative period in African history, produced during a period that was not far removed from independence. As part of a Black History Month programming event, ArtMattan will screen the restored SHAIHU UMAR on February 25, 2024, in New York City.

As ArtMattan is also behind the touring NYADIFF, it’s likely that the film will continue to travel, and may come to a screening room near you!

Take a peek at SHAIHU UMAR: