Amina, The Warrior Queen

Many African dynasties are ruled by men, but did you know that there are some incredibly awesome, extraordinary and inspiring women who also led their countries and tribes? Amina, Queen of Zazzau, is one of those women. Zazzau is the present-day city of Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria. 

Queen Amina, known as the “Warrior Queen,” ruled Kaduna State, which was an approximately 500-square mile region located in the northwest region of Nigeria, in the mid 16th century. It encompassed the seven original states of Hausaland — Katsina, Daura, Kano, Zazzau, Gobir, Rano and Garun Gabas, according to the African Feminist Forum.

After her father died, Amina’s brother Karama took the throne while she trained and became — by all accounts — a “ruthless” warrior, earning the respect of the male-dominated military. When her brother died, she became the first queen of the Hausa people.

Shortly after taking power, Amina led her first military campaign, commanding an army of 20,000 men. Through conquest after conquest, she expanded her kingdom to its largest in history and controlled regional trade routes. Queen Amina also is known as an exceptional architect. In fact, she is credited with building strong earthen walls around the city that became the prototype for fortifications in all Hausa states and around conquered cities. Now known as “Amina’s walls,” many still remain in existence

Evidence from that time period suggests that women could hold positions of power in this pre-colonial Nigeria. “Where they were prevented from being openly active, women used loopholes inherent in their social structures to gain and maintain some level of power...Women could even oust men who were not performing their duties effectively. While socially and economically, pre-colonial Nigerian societies clearly delineated women’s and men’s roles, this did not preclude women from asserting their authority or themselves.” (source)

Amina reigned for 34 years and remains a revered queen. Today, she represents the strength and spirit of womanhood, and is fondly known as “a woman as capable as a man.” In the city of Lagos, a statue of Amina, spear in hand, on a horse, has been erected to immortalize this powerful African queen. 

We already knew women are as strong and capable as men, but Queen Amina helped pave the road for all fierce African women who came after her and should continue to be celebrated today. 

*** Image is of Bisola embodying Queen Amina of Zaria.