Memory & reverence is one of the main ways we invigorate the spirits of those who have walked before us, which also sustains our posterity. The four women discussed in this post, Queen Nanny, Queen Njinga, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa, & Nehanda Charwe, were all great African warriors whose energy must be remembered, commemorates, and invoked as we contemplate spiritual evolution & embody courage daily.
Queen Nanny of Xaymaca (Jamaica)
Queen Nanny was a great warrior who was born in West Africa in what is today recognized as Ghanaian territory. In Africa, Nanny was trained in warfare and in herbal medicinal healing. After being captured by the British and enslaved in Jamaica during the late 17th century, she escaped enslavement and served as a leader in the First Maroon War.
Chief Nanny led guerilla warfare against the British between 1724 and 1739. She taught the men under her how to fight and how to use the local herbs of Xaymaca, the Arawak land of wood and water, to heal and cure. The guerilla warriors of the maroon community were such a threat to the British army that the British eventually offered Queen Nanny land, and proposed to sign a peace treaty recognizing the Maroon community as its own sovereign nation as long as they upheld that they would not welcome any new members.
While some of the men fighting under Nanny agreed to the treaty, Nanny never signed it because she believed to sign a treaty with slave-holders is to concede that slavery is acceptable.
Queen Njinga of Ndongo & Matamba (Angola)
A warrior queen of great influence & diplomacy during the 17th century, Njinga served as a diplomat to the Portuguese under her brother the King of Ndongo. Once her brother died, Njinga assumed the throne & attracted the envy of many men who questioned a woman’s ability to govern. To strengthen her alliances, she married an Imbangala military authority and held a high office within his political authority.
While married to her Imbangala husband, she learned the warfare methods and rites of the Imbangala and taught them to her own private army. She divorced her husband once she learned the ways of his army, and with her own army Njinga conquered the land of Matamba; when faced by resistance to her rulership on the basis of sex once again, Njinga decided to rule as a man and made all of her successive husbands wear women’s clothing and sleep in the maiden quarters. However, if they dare have sex with the maidens she would punish them by death.
Njinga eventually conquered her homeland of Ndongo, and with every military victory her army grew.If you . . . will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women.
If you . . . will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women.Nana Yaa Asantewaa
Nehanda Charwe Nyakasikana of Mashonaland (Zimbabwe)
Nehanda Charwe, regarded as one of the most powerful spiritual practitioners in modern Shona history, was one of the spiritual forces behind the First Chimurenga of the 1890s. The word Chimurenga in Shona means, roughly, “uprising” or “revolutionary struggle”.
The Shona chiefs would consult Nehanda for military advice regarding invaders, and bring her large gifts for performing the fertility rites that allowed rain to come during seasons of dryness. The British eventually captured Mbuya Nehanda in fear of the growing Chimurenga. They killed her and buried her in a secret place because they feared her burial site would become a sacred shrine for the Shona people.
Nana Yaa Asantewaa of the Asanti Empire (Ghana)
Yaa Asantewaa was the key military leader in the War of the Golden Stool (1900-1901), a war in the series of violence conflicts fought between the Ashanti Empire and the British colonizers. For centuries, the Ashanti people have revered the Golden Stool as a source of spiritual and political power for their empire. Similar, but not quite, to how the sacred covenant was viewed in the Bible.
Colonizer Frederick Hogson thought that if he could acquire the golden stool, he would be able to conquer the Ashanti people and have control of them forever through spiritual manipulation (dark sorcery historically has been a very European tradition as you can see, even though they try to associate that with Africa).
Before committing to the war, Yaa Asantewaa said the famous words: “Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were in the brave days, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot.
No white man [Obroni] could have dared to speak to a chief of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you, the men of Ashanti, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
I thank the women who came before me for their bravery.
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