African Women Warriors

We have numerous accounts of home-grown Pan Africanist icons; mostly around agitation for national independence and resistance against colonialist powers. However, attention is mostly paid to male protagonists, and less to traditional African female leaders of resistance movements.

This blog series features ancient African women warriors and champions against Western imperialism.

We honor: Obaa Yaa Asantewaa – the Queen mother of Ejisu in Asanteman who led her people into battle against the British colonialists who had stolen the symbol of royal power, the Asantehene (the Golden Stool). In her famous words, ”If you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon you my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight until the last of us falls on the battlefield.”

Queen Nzinga a Mbande of the Ndongo and the Matamba waged a thirty year war against marauding Portuguese slavers invading her people. At the time of Nzinga’s death in 1661 at the age of 81, Matamba had become a powerful kingdom that managed to resist Portuguese colonization attempts for an extended period of time. Her kingdom was only integrated into Angola in the late 19th century.

Muhumusa and Kaigirwa were revered Nyabingi priestesses with both spiritual and political influence in the region that is present day Rwanda and Uganda border (1850 to 1950). Nyabingi Muhumusa proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.” The British passed the 1912 Witchcraft Act in direct response to the political effectiveness of this spiritually-based resistance movement.

Amanirenas ruled over the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush in northeast Africa between c. 40 B.C.-10 B.C.  She is one of the most famous kandakes (queen mothers) because of her role in leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted five years, from 27 BCE to 22 BCE. When Roman emperor Augustus levied a tax on the Kushites in 24 B.C., Amanirenas and her son, Akinidad,  led an army of 30,000 men to sack the Roman fort in the Egyptian city of Aswan. They also destroyed the statues of Caesar in Elephantine.

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