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Series: Women, Power and Politics in Africa. Introducing Amina, Warrior Queen of Zaria

According to Dr Iyabode Omolara Akewo Daniel, international scholar of the English language and Associate Professor of English, African women have been historically viewed as powerful and politically relevant. Furthermore, she has argued that African women have been more powerful and politically relevant than their western counterparts. What has changed over the past few centuries that resulted in the displacement of African female power? What factors contributed to African women becoming disempowered, needing to fight for empowerment alongside western women?

This article profile is part of a series relating to African queens, rulers or important female figures in both ancient and contemporary times, in order open up a discussion of women empowerment in Africa.

African Queens: Amina warrior Queen of Zaria

Introducing Aminatu, first of her name, slayer of enemies and warrior queen of Zaria.

This fierce queen was the eldest daughter of Queen Bakwa Turunku, the founder the Zazzau Kingdom (modern day Zaria, Nigeria) in 1536. This medieval African kingdom was located in the region now known as the Kaduna State in the north-central region of Nigeria, capital at the modern city of Zaria.

Accounts of Queen Amina’s war exploits are the stuff of legends. Indeed, the tales of her exploits are mentioned in the Kano Chronicle (a document representing a detailed history of the city of Kano and the Hausa people). She is said to have personally led many war campaigns during her reign which allowed her to expand her territories.

Queen Amina successfully controlled the trade routes of this region and established a network of commerce within her kingdom. It is said that Queen Amina never married, as she never wanted to be subject to a man’s control. According to the Kano Chronicle, Queen Amina successfully reigned for 34 years.

In 1901 British forces captured Zaria as a protected state. Nigeria gained its independence from British rule in 1960. However, the walls erected by Queen Amina have since been removed. In contemporary times, Zaria represents one of the largest traditional emirates in Nigeria, with the emirs exerting significant power within the region.

Queen Amina’s story represents a glimpse of female power in Africa. However, even Queen Amina recognised that as powerful as she is, she fears being controlled by a man.

Source: Daniel (2016). How Did We Get Here? A Historical Profile of the African Woman. Gender & Behaviour 14(3), 7693-7710.

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