Africa’s Past Queen


Africa is the birthplace of human civilization, and throughout history, it has been home of some of the world’s most significant leaders. Among those leaders are queens who led their kingdoms with precision and power, and have since left an indelible mark on history. In fact, according to Greek records, the first amazons were from Libya–a name that, anciently, was used to refer to the whole of North Africa. Some of these amazons, like the Amazon of Dahomey, had troops that solely had female fighters. And if women could fight and defeat male warriors, then there’s nothing that could stop them from earning the same respect as men as far as leadership is concerned. We take a look at some of the most dynamic ancient African queens.

  1. Amina– The Queen of Zaria, Nigeria, in the 15th century

Aminatu, commonly known as Amina, was a great Hausa warrior who later became the queen of Zazzau; apparently known as Zaria. As a grand-daughter to king Sarkin, Amina was the apparent heir of the throne after Bakwa of Turunku (the king’s wife and the mother to Amina). Contrary to how her mother used to rule the Zazzau kingdom, Amina chose to be a warrior and eventually became one of the greatest warriors of the Zazzau kingdom. And when her mother died, the kingdom was passed to Karama–the queen’s younger brother–who ruled for 10 years. After Karama’s death, Amina became the queen of Zazzau.

She ruled for 34 years and continued to be an active warrior until her death. History has is that she conducted her first military-expedition 3 months after she stepped into power. This, in turn, helped her to hold her power into place for another 34 years, which again saw to it that she had expanded the Zazzau kingdom into one of the greatest domains of that time. But her main focus was not entirely based on annexing lands from her neighbouring communities; instead, she fought hard to grant the Hausa traders of that time a safe passage through the Kingdoms. She is also acclaimed for being the ruler behind the fortified city walls–a common characteristic of Hausa states.

2 Makeda — The Queen of Sheba, 960 BC

Apart from being the subject of one of the most recited bible verses or an inevitable subject of the present time history, Makeda’s achievements and her great kingdom will forever be hailed by several generations yet to come. The most interesting story of this great African leader is when she met with the biblical King Solomon. In fact, she’s biblical described as the epitome of beauty and power, and has a series of other remarkable achievements recorded in the Glory-of-Kings and the Kebra Nagast.

During the reign of Makeda, Ethiopia was considered to be second after Egypt as far as power and fame was concerned. This made several kingdoms to be fascinated by how this female ruler could make such a small kingdom to be one of the most revered kingdoms in the world. This is what made king Solomon to be interested in having a commercial relationship with Sheba. As a result, he decided to invite Queen Makeda to Israel.

  1. Queen Nandi of the Zulu Kingdom

Queen Nandi was the mother of Shaka Zulu, one of the Zulu kingdom’s greatest kings in Southern Africa. Queen Nandi’s story is one of resilience as a mother, and one of hope against social pressures.

She fell pregnant with King Senzangakhona’s son, who was considered illegitimate as the couple was unmarried. She endured great humiliation and rejection as a result, but still persisted with raising her son who was named after the iShaka beetle, which was initially blamed as the reason for her raised stomach as leaders tried to deny her pregnancy.

During Shaka’s reign as king, Queen Nandi had great influence over affairs of the kingdom, including being a voice of reason during political strife with neighbouring kingdoms. Through her being Shaka’s pillar of strength, he was able to go on his great exploits, extending the borders of the Zulu kingdom over a period of 12 years. Her death was marked by a long period of mourning known as “Isililo SikaNandi”.

4.Nefertiti — Queen of Ancient Kemet(Egypt) from 1292 BC to 1225 BC

Queen Nefertiti, whose name means ‘a beautiful woman has come’, is one of Egypt’s most prominent queens whose painted sandstone bust has become a global icon of feminine beauty and power.

On the walls of tombs and temples built during her husband Pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign  when she was queen, Nefertiti is portrayed as a woman of power and authority, often driving a chariot or smiting an enemy. She and Akhenaten were responsible for Egypt’s major cultural and religious upheaval, establishing the cult of Aten – which saw the sun god Aten as the most important figure in Egypt’s polytheistic (believe in multiple gods) canon – and vigorously promoting Egyptian artwork.

It is believed that she was either born in the town of Akhmim or in a foreign country, which is now modern day Syria. It is believed that she was 15-years-old when she married Akhenaten, and together they had six children, including King Tutankhamun, who is described as a powerful pharaoh who, among other exploits, restored the traditional Egyptian religion. Pharaoh Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti often went on exploits together and were said to be genuinely in love, often kissing in public, which is a depiction that is not often seen in ancient Egyptian pharaohs.

  1. Queen Ranavalona the First of Madagascar

Queen Ranavalona the First ruled the large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar from 1788–1861. She is best known for being defiant against European colonialism, but is also said to have ruled as a dictator, often persecuting those who opposed her regime.

Her 33 year reign mainly consisted of preserving the political and cultural sovereignty of Madagascar in the face of European colonialism while creating a self-sufficient state for the good of her people. This led to her being viewed as a great sovereign and patriotic leader at heart, while colonists viewed her as a tyrant. It is believed that she was born in 1788 and may have been named Ramavo. It is also believed that she is of Merina descent, which is the island’s largest ethnic group.

  1. Yaa Asantewa — Ashanti kingdom, Ghana

The Ghanaian  Yaa Asantewa, known  as the woman who fearlessly fought against British colonialists to her exile. The speech she last gave to the chiefs who were about to chicken out from the war against colonists is what inspired several men to go ahead and fight against the British for the release of their king: King Prempehehe who had been captured by the British. Queen Asantewa, together with other warriors, managed to keep the British army at fort but were eventually captured and exiled. Historically, Yaa Asantewa is credited as the last woman to ever lead a major war against the colonists;thus, her name will forever be remembered throughout the African history.

7. Ndate Yalla Mobdj Queen of Walo

Queen Ndate was a major force of resistance of French colonialism in Senegal. During this era, women were not recognized as citizens in France. She was the last great queen of Waalo a kingdom in the northwest of modern day Senegal. She fought a fierce battle with the french. The french were stunned at her abilities, gallantry and rich tradition of bravery. She fought both the Moors who happen to encroach on her territory, and the colonialist army. Her women army was similar to the Amazon women army of Benin. She later went into exile in Ndimb in the northern part of the Waalo and died in Dagana. A statue has been erected in her honor at Dagana. The only one erected in honor of a queen nationwide.

8. Nzinga Mbande Queen of Angola

The last but not the list in our list of ancient African queens from history is the Queen of Angola Nzinga Mbande

This queen was the sister and adviser of the king of Ngola, present day Angola. She also served as a representative in negotiating treaties with the portugese. She became queen when her brother died in 1624. The Portugese broke the peace treaty that was negotiated during her brother’s reign, Nzinga Mbande took a decisive action by sending her female army against them inflicting terrible casualties while also conquering nearby kingdoms in an attempt to build strong enough confederation to drive the Portugese out of Africa. She accepted a truce and then agreed to a peace treaty in 1635. She continued to  rule her people and lived to be 81. When Angola became an Independent nation in 1975 a street in Luanda was named in her honour.

GLOSSARY

  1. Amazon- A mamber of a legendary nation of women warriors reputed to have lived in ancient Scythia. In classical legend, the amazons were a tribe of warrior women. Their name is supposedly derived from Greek a-mazos “without a breast” because according to the legend, they cut off their right breasts so as to be able to shoot with a bow and arrow.
  2. Civilization- The process by which a society or place reaches an advanced stage of social development and organization
  3. Amazon of Dahomey- women warrior of Dahomey
  4. Century- a period of one hundred years
  5. Military Expedition- A military campaign designed to achieve a specific objective in a foreign country
  6. Annexing- To take over a territory
  7. BC- Before Christ. Used to label or number years inthe Julian and Gregorian calendars
  8. Kebra Negast or the glory of the Kings- is a 14th century account written in Ge’ez written by Is’haq Nebura-id of Axum. It contains the true history of the origin of the solomonic line of kings in Ethiopia. It is regarded as the ultimate authority on the history of the conversion of the Ethiopians from the worship of the sun, moon and stars to that of the lord God of Israel.
  9. Kingdom- a country, state or territory ruled by a king or queen
  10. Chariot- a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by horses used in ancient racing and warfare
  11. Colonialism- the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically.
  12. Sovereignty- Supreme power or authority. The authority of a state to govern itself or another state.
  13. Patriotic- having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country
  14. Tyrant- a cruel and oppressive ruler
  15. Exile- the state of being bare from one’s native country typically for political or punitive reasons
  16. Treaty- a formal agreement between two or more states in reference to peace, alliance, commerce or other international relations.

 

 

 



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