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8 remarkable African queens who shaped history

8 remarkable African queens who shaped history

African queens have fearlessly shaped history as warriors, leaders, and influencers, breaking stereotypes and leaving lasting legacies.

From defending kingdoms to fostering prosperity, their bravery, intelligence, and resilience inspire generations.

These women’s stories highlight women’s vital role in African heritage, cementing their positions as influential figures in history.

Here are 8 remarkable African queens who shaped history

Amina of Zaria, Nigeria

Amina of Zaria, Nigeria

Queen Amina of Zazzau, born around 1533 in present-day Zaria, Nigeria, was the daughter of King Nikatau and Queen Bakwa Turunku. Trained in military tactics and political affairs from a young age, she was named Magajiya (apparent heir) at 16. After the deaths of her parents and her brother, she ascended the throne in 1576, becoming renowned for her military prowess.

Amina expanded Zazzau’s territory through successful campaigns, commanding an army of 20,000 soldiers and 1,000 cavalrymen. She built protective walls around her kingdom, known as “Amina walls,” which still stand today. Her legacy as a warrior queen and state builder remains a powerful symbol of female leadership in African history.

Read also: 5 African Queens who have held Miss World title

Moremi of Ile-Ife Kingdom, Nigeria

Moremi of Ile-Ife Kingdom, Nigeria

Moremi Ajasoro, a legendary Yoruba queen and folk heroine, played a crucial role in freeing Ile-Ife from the Ugbo Kingdom. Hailing from Offa, she married Oranmiyan, son of Oduduwa, the first king of Ile-Ife. Facing raids by Ugbo invaders disguised as spirits, Moremi offered herself to be captured to learn their secrets.

After gaining intelligence on the Ugbo army, she escaped and shared this knowledge with her people, leading to their victory. Her legacy endures through the Edi Festival, “Queen Moremi: The Musical,” and various institutions named in her honor across Yorubaland. Moremi symbolizes bravery, sacrifice, and intelligence in Yoruba history.

Queen Kandake, Ethiopia

Queen Kandake, Ethiopia

Queen Kandake, also known as Candace, was a key figure in the ancient Kingdom of Kush, a powerful civilization along the Nile River in present-day Sudan and Ethiopia. The title of Kandake referred to the queens who played essential roles in governance and military affairs.

One notable Kandake, Amanirenas, ruled during the 1st century BCE and famously resisted Roman invasion in 24 BCE, despite losing an eye in battle. Her leadership secured a peace treaty with Rome, maintaining Kush’s independence. Kandakes like Amanirenas symbolized strength and resilience, defying gender norms and leaving a lasting impact on Kushite history. Their legacy endures as symbols of both military prowess and cultural richness.

Read also: Miss Universe Nigeria: Ugochi Ihueze reflects on becoming queen

Queen Makeda of Sheba, Ethiopia

 Queen Makeda of Sheba, Ethiopia

Queen Makeda, also known as the Queen of Sheba, is a significant figure in Ethiopian history and legend. In the Hebrew Bible, she visits King Solomon in Jerusalem to test his wisdom, bringing gifts and leaving impressed by his knowledge and the splendor of his court. The Quran also mentions her, calling her Bilqis, a wise ruler who accepts Solomon’s invitation to embrace monotheism.

Ethiopian tradition expands her story, describing her as a monarch of Aksum who travels to meet Solomon, leading to a romantic relationship and the birth of their son, Menelik I. Menelik I is considered the founder of the Solomonic dynasty in Ethiopia, linking Ethiopian royalty to King Solomon. Her story symbolizes wisdom, cultural exchange, and the historical ties between Ethiopia and Israel.

Joyce Ntila Banda, Malawi

Joyce Ntila Banda, Malawi

Joyce Ntila Banda, born on April 12, 1950, in Malemia, Malawi, overcame personal challenges to become a passionate advocate for women’s rights and economic empowerment, founding the National Association of Business Women (NABW). In April 2012, she made history as Malawi’s first female president, focusing on economic reform, healthcare, and education, including free primary education and maternal health programs.

Despite facing political obstacles, her leadership prioritized fiscal stability and inclusive growth. Banda’s presidency shattered gender barriers, inspiring women across Malawi and beyond. She actively promoted women’s participation in politics and decision-making, leaving a lasting impact on gender equality in Malawian society. Her ongoing advocacy continues to emphasize education, health, and economic opportunities for all.

Read also: Miss Universe Nigeria: Ugochi Ihueze reflects on becoming queen

Nefertiti of Ancient Kemet, Egypt

Nefertiti of Ancient Kemet, Egypt

Nefertiti, also known as Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, was the queen of Egypt and wife of King Akhenaten during the 14th century BCE. She is believed to be the daughter of the courtier Ay and has a sister named Mutnodjmet. Nefertiti played a significant role in her husband’s religious revolution, promoting the worship of the sun god Aten and helping establish the new capital city, Akhetaten (Amarna).

She is famously depicted wearing a tall, flat-topped blue crown, with her iconic bust discovered in the 20th century now housed in the Berlin Museum. Nefertiti bore six daughters, two of whom later became queens of Egypt. Her legacy as a symbol of beauty, power, and influence continues to captivate historians and archaeologists today.

Yaa Asantewaa of Ashanti Kingdom, Ghana

Yaa Asantewaa of Ashanti Kingdom, Ghana

Yaa Asantewaa, born in the late 19th century in the Ashanti Confederacy (present-day Ghana), was a skilled farmer before becoming Queen Mother under her brother, Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpase. She emerged as a pivotal leader during the 1900 Ashanti rebellion, known as the War of the Golden Stool, resisting British attempts to seize the sacred Golden Stool, symbolizing Ashanti sovereignty.

Yaa Asantewaa galvanized her people to defend their heritage, leading a courageous six-month resistance against British forces. Despite her capture and exile, she remains a national symbol of bravery and pride. Her legacy continues to inspire movements for freedom and independence across Africa, highlighting the importance of standing against oppression.

Queen Nandi of Zulu Kingdom, South Africa

Queen Nandi of Zulu Kingdom, South Africa

Queen Nandi, born around 1760 in Melmoth, KwaZulu-Natal, was of royal blood as the daughter of Langeni chief Bhebhe. She became pregnant by Senzangakhona, son of Jama, and faced significant challenges, including demands for compensation and the dangers at Senzangakhona’s kraal, prompting her to leave with her son, Shaka. Nandi faced numerous hardships, including famine and assassination attempts, while fiercely protecting Shaka, eventually settling among the Ncholo and later the Mthethwa people.

She married Gendeyana and had two more children, Ngwadi and Nomcoba while raising Shaka. Her resilience and influence profoundly shaped Shaka’s leadership and the rise of the Zulu Empire. Queen Nandi passed away from dysentery on October 10, 1827, and her grave is located near Eshowe, marked simply as “Nandi.” Today, Queen Nandi stands as a symbol of pride and self-empowerment for women.