SHAIHU UMAR acquired by ArtMattan FIlms

SHAIHU UMAR acquired by ArtMattan FIlms


Didi Cheeka works as a director and film critic and has been working for years to reappraise the Nigerian film heritage. He initiated the archive project “Reclaiming History, Unveiling Memory” with the aim of restoring, digitizing and curating rediscovered Nigerian films.

SHAIHU UMAR is one of the most important works in Nigerian film history, but was long considered lost. Located in northern Nigeria at the end of the 19th century, the film is based on a novel by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, who later became Nigeria’s first prime minister. Only the rediscovery of the camera negative in 2016 made the reconstruction of the film possible. The digitally restored version had its premiere at the Berlinale in February 2018.

Set in northern Nigeria towards the end of the 19th century, Shaihu Umar starts with a discussion between Islamic students and their renowned teacher, the wise man Shaihu Umar. Asked about his origins, Umar begins to tell his story: he comes from a modest background and is separated from his mother after his father dies and his stepfather is banished. His subsequent trials and tribulations are marked by slavery, and he is put to any number of tests until he finally becomes the adopted son of his Arabic master Abdulkarim. He attends Koran School and is made an imam upon reaching adulthood. Following a particular dream, he resolves to search for his mother.

Adamu Halilu filmed Shaihu Umar in Hausa in 1976. Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art restored the film with the support of the German Embassy in Abuja.

by Adamu Halilu, Nigeria, 1976, Epic Drama in Hausa with English subtitles, 142' - Colour


Umaru Ladan (Shaihu Umar)
Mairiga Aliyu (Fatima)
Husaini Mohammed (Umar, 3 Jahre alt)
Umaru Dembo (Makau)
Assad Yasin (Abdulkarim)
Harira Kachia (Kaka)


Adamu Halilu
Adamu Halilu, based on the novel of the same title by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa
Director of Photography
Yusuf Mohammed, Zakari Yusufu
Edwin Apim
Baba Gana
Production Design
Assad Yasin
Umaru Ladan, Umaru Dembo



Born in the state of Adamawa, Nigeria in 1936. He studied screenwriting and editing in London. Along with his work as a feature film director, Adamu Halilu also wrote screenplays and took part in the production of almost 70 documentary films. Adamu Halilu died in 2001.

Filmography (selection)

1963 Mama Learns a Lesson; 48 min. 1971 Child Bride; 70 min. 1976 Shaihu Umar 1978 Kanta of Kebbi 1981 Moment of Truth; 90 min. 1982 Zainab

Bio- & filmography as of Berlinale 2018


Federal Ministry of Information (Federal Film Unit Kaduna)