Commonly known as the warrior queen, Queen Amina of Zaria was the first woman to become the Sarauniya queen in a male-dominated society. She expanded the territory of the Hausa people of north Africa to its largest borders in history.
Much of what is known of Queen Amina is based on information related in the […]. Much of what is known of Queen Amina is based on information related in the Kano Chronicles. Other details are pulled from the oral traditions of Nigeria. As a result, the memory of Queen Amina has assumed legendary proportions in her native Hausaland and beyond. Eventually, the entire state of Zazzau was renamed Zaria, which is now a province in present-day Nigeria.
Amina was born around in Zaria. She lived approximately years prior to the establishment of the Sokoto Caliphate federation that governed Nigeria during the period of British colonial rule following the Islamic jihad holy war that overtook the region in the 19 th century. She was born to the ruler, Bakwa of Turunku, who lived in the city state of Zazzau. The family was wealthy as a result of trading in imported metals, cloth, cola, salt, horses and imported metals.
Queen Amina of Zaria
This led to her eventually emerging as a leader of the Zazzau cavalry, during which time she accumulated great wealth and numerous military accolades. Upon the death of her brother after a 10 year rule, Amina had matured into a fierce warrior and earned the respect of the Zazzau military, so she was able to assume the reign of the kingdom.
Women could even oust men who were not performing their duties effectively. The rise and fall of the powerful and more dominant Songhai people, and the resulting competition for control of trade routes, incited continual warring among the Hausa people and their neighbouring settlements during the 15 th and 16 th centuries.
Exploits in Battle
In the continual competition for power among the Hausa states, Zaria for a time achieved predominance under Queen Amina. For the rest of her [34 year] reign, she continued to fight and expand her kingdom to [its] greatest in history. Amina brought unheard-of wealth to the land; one description cites a tribute payment of 40 eunuchs and 10, kola nuts. Because her people were talented metal workers, Amina introduced metal armour, including iron helmets and chain mail, to her army.
Amina is also credited as the architect of the strong earthen walls around the city, which became the prototype for the fortifications used in all Hausa states. Many of these walls remain in existence to this day. Walling was a vitally important consideration in the development of African urban life.
Walls gave definition to settlements and prevented uncontrollable sprawl. They also provided psychological and physical security. In unstable times, they afforded protection against theft or destruction and in peacetime, they controlled entry and exit. The walls constructed by Queen Amina of Zaria not only protected Hausa markets from external threats emanating from the south, but also became an enduring testimony to her glorious reign.
According to legend, Amina refused to marry and instead took a temporary husband from the legions of vanquished foes after every battle. Legend also [records] that she died during a military campaign at Atagara near Bida in Nigeria.
Today, her memory represents the spirit and strength of womanhood. Where they were prevented from being openly active, women used loopholes inherent in their social structures to gain and maintain some level of power.
This changed to a large extent with the advent of Islam and, later, British colonial rule, causing women to suffer important setbacks. The obstacles facing women in Nigeria and across Africa may persist, yet the legacies and examples of women such as Amina point to the possibilities that exist for African women to reshape the destinies of their societies and communities.
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NHD 2015: Queen Amina of Hausaland Documentary
Colorado: Westview Press. Maintaining power. Queen Amina of Zaria African feminist ancestors Commonly known as the warrior queen, Queen Amina of Zaria was the first woman to become the Sarauniya queen in a male-dominated society.
African feminist ancestors.