Prior to the advent of Europe and colonial influence on the African continent, women in Africa held powerful roles in society.
Sadly, the power and influence of African women dwindle after the arrival of foreign invaders and colonialist who introduced European narratives and ideologies into most society. For example, the Akan people are still matriarchal in custom and leaders of the tribe is selected by a queen mother who is either his sister, aunt or mother.
READ MORE: Rebecca Naa Dedei Ayitey: The lady on Ghana’s 50pesewas and an Independence shero
The significance of African women in their societies was proof of the respect and importance given to them as the source of life and custodians of society.
Over the years, their lives, impact and contribution to society have been erased or erroneously portrayed.
In this article, we shed light on 9 African queens in history who ruled their world and made a lasting impact in their societies.
Check them out.
Obahemaa Nana Yaa Asantewaa, Ejisuhemaa, Ghana
Nana Yaa Asantewa was born in 1840 at Besease, Ashanti Region to Kwaku Ampoma and Ata Po during the Gold Coast era.
She was enthroned as the queen mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Confederacy by Ejisuhene, Nana Akwasi Afrane Opese.
As a woman in the Ashanti Empire, she was not subjected to patriarchal roles of womanhood and took several roles as an intellectual, a politician, human right activist, Queen and a leader.
In 1900, she led the Ashanti army to fight the British infantry in the Yaa Asantewaa War or the War of the Golden Stool. Despite, losing to the Britsih Army and exiled to Seychelles, her heroism and patriotism is widely celebrated in Ashanti folklore and Ghanaian history. She died at the age of 81 in Seychelles Island.
Amina, Queen of Zaria, Nigeria
Born in 1610, Aminatu was a Hausa warrior queen of the city-state of Zazzau which is now the present-day city of Zaria in Kaduna State, North-west region of Nigeria. She is also known in Hausa as “Amina daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.”
According to oral history, she ruled in the mid-sixteenth century and was named Magajiya (heir apparent) at the age of 16 which also her receive forty female slaves from her grandfather. Her grandfather os attributed with the discovery of her sterling leadership skills and trained her in military matters.
She was known as a “leading warrior in her brother’s cavalry” and gained notoriety for her military skills.
The Queen of Sheba-Makeda
Makeda, the Queen of Sheba in present-day Ethiopia is mentioned by several religious books including the Bible, Quran ,Targum Sheni, and and Ethiopian work, Kebra Negas.
She is believed to have been an intelligent, rich and very powerful monarch who had to visit King Solomon to verify claims of his wisdom and lavishes him with important gifts after a series of tests.
Nefertiti – Queen of Ancient Kemet, Egypt
Another great African queen to who ruled in ancient times was Neferneferuaten Nefertiti was born in 1370 – c. and died in 1330 BC. She was an Egyptian queen and the royal wife of Egyptian Pharoah, Akhenaten. Ancient Egypt was a polytheist nation and the rise of Nefertiti and her husband brought that to a halt as they introduced the worship of one god, Aten, or the sun disc. Their reign is considered as arguably the wealthiest period in Ancient Egyptian history.
Queen Nandi of the Zulu kingdom, South Africa
Nandi which means “Sweet one” was the mother of the great King Shaka who is arguably one of the most powerful kings of the Zulu Kingdom.
She was born in c. 1760 to a past chief of the Langeni tribe, Bhebe. During her son’s reign, she held great power and control over kingdom matters. She died on October 10, 1827.
Kandake – the empress of Ethiopia
She is referred to as Candace of Ethiopia, or Kandake of Kush and was cited by church historians as the dreaded military leader of her time. Eusebius mentions the biblical account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in his famous Church History book and cites that “Ethiopia even to the present day is ruled, according to ancestral custom, by a woman” (2.1.13 cf. Acts 8:27).
Moremi Ajasoro of Ile-Ife Kingdom
Moremi Ajasoro was Yoruba Princess and is a figure of high repute in Yoruba history and culture. She was born as a princess in the 12th Century and was a courageous queen who helped his people conquer the “Forest people” in a fierce battle. The Edi Festival celebrated in her honour for the sacrifice the princess made for the people of Yorubaland.
Queen Manthatisi, South Africa
Queen Manthatisi’ name [Mmanthatisi] was dreaded in the early 19th Century among her enemies and slave raiders. She was a member of the tribe of Batlokoa (which later became the Harrismith district of the Free State province of South Africa).
She was a warrior who led strong men to ward off enemies including British invaders and protected her territory during the southern African slave trade. She was nicknamed by her people as “Mosayane” – the tiny one.
Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj, Senegal
Last but not the list of African women worth celebrating is the Lingeer or Queen Ndate Yalla Mbodj, she was the last great queen of the Waalo, a kingdom in the northwest of modern-day Senegal.
Queen Mbdoh was born in 1810 and by age 36 had succeeded her sister, Ndjeumbeut Mbodj as the crown queen of the Waalo kingdom. Her coronation took place on October 1st 1846 in Ndar (now Saint-Louis), the capital of Waalo.
She is celebrated as a heroic figure of the resistance against French colonization and Moors invasion in the 1800s. Queen Mbodj was the mother of #SidyaLeonDiop or #SidyaNdateYallaDiop, who went on to become one the greatest resistants to the colonization of Senegal.
in1855, just like the famous Yaa Asantewaa, she also led her army to fight the colonialist pirate Faidherbe who had an army of 15,000 fully armed men who dethroned her and colonized Waalo and Senegal. She died in 1860.
Oral historians (also known as griots) have immortalised her bravery, and she remains a symbol of female empowerment. During her life and afterwards, Mbodj was a symbol of resistance against French colonialism.