In celebration of women's month, and in case you missed Azania's show this week - we'd like to acquaint you with four remarkable queens who came from Africa.
South Africa's very own, Queen Nandi is most famous for being Shaka Zulu’s mother and was the daughter of Bhebhe, a past chief of the Langeni tribe. She is widely considered to be one of the greatest single parents who ever lived. When confronted by animosity, rejection, insults, and humiliation, she raised her son Shaka the best way she could - never to give up on life - to have strength of will, and to believe in his destiny. She raised him to believe in the power of unity, and in the concept of “We are the same”. Nandi devoted her life to her son and his siblings, protecting them the best she knew how, seeking refuge, and later finding him the best mentors in Dingiswayo and Ngomane, amongst others.”
(Taken from an article Queen Nandi: A remarkable woman by Soka Mthembu)
Angola is the birthplace of Queen Njinga. Did you know, in 1626, after being deposed by the Portuguese, Njinga transformed herself into a prolific slave trader and ferocious military leader, waging wars against the Portuguese colonizers and their African allies? This seventeenth-century queen was one of the most multifaceted rulers in history, a woman who rivaled Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great in political cunning and military prowess. Njinga survived multiple attempts to get her killed.
She conquered the neighboring state of Matamba and ruled as queen of Ndongo-Matamba. At the height of her reign in the 1640s Njinga ruled almost one-quarter of modern-day northern Angola. Toward the end of her life, weary of war, she made peace with Portugal and converted to Christianity.
Source: Linda Heywood’s Njinga of Angola Africa’s Warrior Queen
The story of Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa is a story of the modern history of the nation of Ghana, Africa. Yaa Asantewaa was named Queen Mother of the Ejisuhene (part of the Asante or Ashanti Confederacy) by her exiled brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese.
Prior to European colonization, the Ashanti people developed an influential West African empire. Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the "Golden Stool" (Sika 'dwa) during this powerful Ashanti Confederacy (Asanteman), an independent federation of Asanti tribal families that ruled from 1701 to 1896. In 1896, Asantehene (King) Prempeh I of the Asanteman federation was captured and exiled to the Seychelles islands by the British who had come to call the area the British "Gold Coast."
Asantewaa's brother was said to be among the men exiled with Prempeh I, deported because of his opposition to British rule in West Africa. In 1900, British colonial governor Frederick Hodgson called a meeting in the city of Kumasi of the Ashantehene local rulers. At the meeting, Hodgson stated that King Prempeh I would continue to suffer an exile from his native land and that the Ashanti people were to surrender to the British their historical, ancestral Golden Stool - a dynastic symbol of the Ashanti empire. In fact, power was transferred to each Asantahene by a ceremonial crowning that involved the sacred Golden Stool. The colonial governor demanded that it be surrendered to allow Hodgson to sit on the Sika 'dwa as a symbol of British power. At this time, Yaa Asantewaa was the Gatekeeper of the Golden Stool. After this meetings, the Ashantehenes of the federation gathered to discuss the British development.
The Ashanti-British "War of the Golden Stool" was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5,000. While Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British and deported, her bravery stirred a kingdom-wide movement for the return of Prempeh I and for independence.
Today, Ashanti is an administrative region in central Ghana where most of the inhabitants are Ashanti people who speak Twi, an Akan language group, similar to Fante. In 1935 the Golden Stool was used in the ceremony to crown Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II (ruled 1935-1970). Independence from the British colonialist was secured in 1957. On August 3, 2000, a museum was dedicated to Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa at Kwaso in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana.
Amina of Zaria
Amina was born around 1533 in Zaria, a province of today’s Nigeria. She was the daughter of Bakwa of Turunku. Their family's wealth was derived from the trade of leather goods, cloth, kola, salt, horses and imported metals. When Bakwa died in 1566, the crown of Zazzua passed to Amina’s younger brother, Karama. Although Bakwa's reign was known for peace and prosperity, Amina chose to hone her military skills from the warriors of the Zazzau military. As a result, she emerged as leader of the Zazzua cavalry. Many accolades, great wealth, and increased power resulted from her numerous military achievements. When her brother Karama died after a ten-year rule, Amina had matured into a fierce warrior and had earned the respect of the Zazzau military and she assumed the reign of the kingdom.
Amina led her first military charge a few months after assuming power. For the rest of her 34 year reign, she continued to fight and expand her kingdom to the greatest in history. The objective for initiating so many battles was to make neighbouring rulers her vassal and permit her traders safe passage. In this way, she boosted her kingdom’s wealth and power with gold, slaves, and new crops. Because her people were talented metal workers, Amina introduced metal armor, including iron helmets and chain mail, to her army.
According to legend, Amina refused to marry and never bore children. Instead, she took a temporary husband from the legions of vanquished foes after every battle. After spending one night together, she would condemn him to death in the morning in order to prevent him from ever speaking about his sexual encounter with the queen. Legend also decrees she died during a military campaign at Atagara near Bida in Nigeria. Her exploits earned her the moniker Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.
Find out what Azania Mosaka had to say about the queens here.