Across the majority of cultures around the world it seems that the most famous warriors from history tend to be male. However, African history is very unique because there seems to be some level of parity when it comes to the popularity of both male and female historical figures particularly in the field of war and combat. Therefore, we’ve put together a list of some of the most impressive female warriors from African History.
Kandake Amanirenas was the queen of the Meroitic Kingdom of Kush. She is best known for her role in leading the Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted over five years. Eventually Amanirenas was able to strike a peace treaty with the Romans on on extremely favourable terms. The Meroites were exempted from having to pay tribute to the Roman Emperor and also gained the southern half of a 30 mile strip separating Egypt from Kush.
Nandi is best known as the mother of Shaka Zulu however, history tells us that she was a great warrior in her own right. Nandi actually trained Shaka in the art of war and combat and was known to battle slave traders and bandits herself. Her son, Shaka Zulu was born as an illegitimate child, his father was Senzangakhona kaJama, chieftain of the Zulu clan. Because of the circumstances surrounding Shaka’s birth, Nandi was essentially a single mother thus she had to provide for her son and while also protecting him from numerous assassination attempts. Inspired by his mother’s strength, when he became King, Shaka Zulu established an all-female regiment which often fought in the front lines of his army.
Seh-Dong-Hong-Be was the leader of the Dahomey Amazons during the reign of King Ghezo. She is best known for leading an army of 6,000 women against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta. The Egba soldiers were initially taken by surprise not only did they struggle to fathom the idea of an all female military unit they were struck by the sheer skill and ferocity of Seh-Dong and her Amazons. Furthermore, considering the fact that the Amazons were armed with spears, bows and swords while the Egba had cannons and rifles, this should have been an overwhelming victory in favour of the Egbas. Nevertheless, the Dahomey Amazons were able to match and in some cases overwhelm their Egba adversaries for an extended period of time. Ultimately, because of the superior weaponry the Egbas possed, Seh-Dong and the Amazons were unable to take the fortress and eventually decided to retreat.
Amina was a Hausa Warrior Queen of Zazzau (now Zaria). She was known to be a fierce warrior with an intense love for the art of combat. Rumours that suggest that Amina’s obsession with war and combat began during her early childhood. Her grandmother supposedly caught her practicing sword strokes with a dagger when she was just a little toddler. However, the child’s use of the dagger wasn’t what shocked her grandmother, but rather it was that Amina wielded it with the skill and poise of a trained warrior. Despite living in a patriarchal society Amina had lofty ambitions thus, As an adult, she refused to marry in order to avoid being subservient to any man. Under her leadership, Zazzau not only became a center of trade but she also expanded the reach of her Kingdom. Amina was a conqueror at heart thus she was said to have taken a lover from among the conquered people after each successful battle, and to have killed or castrated them in the morning following their night together.
Queen Nzinga Mbande, was the queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms (part of modern day Angola) during the 17th-century. She came to power as an ambassador after demonstrating extreme skill and poise in the art of negotiation. One of her most notable achievements was successfully negotiating the the return of the fortress of Ambaca from the Portuguese. However, despite Nzinga’s diplomatic prowess she was unable to prevent the tension between the Portuguese and the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms from rising. Overwhelmed by the looming threat of the Portuguese army Nzinga’s brother King Ngola Mbande committed suicide. Although she was not next in line to the throne Nzinga assumed control of the kingdom as regent and eventually became the queen. During her reign Nzinga showed that in addition to her diplomatic prowess, she was also and excellent warrior and military tactician defeating the far superior Portuguese army on several occasions.