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Amina: Warrior queen of Zazzau

Pinado Abdu-Waba
April 20, 2020

At a time when men dominated most aspects of life, Amina the queen of Zazzau emerged. A skillful Hausa warrior, she commanded a vast army which conquered many territories and greatly expanded her kingdom.

DW African Roots | Queen Amina of Zazzau

Amina: The warrior queen of Zazzau

How can you sum up what Amina of Zazzau stands for?

'Amina, a woman like a man!' This is the slogan used to describe Amina. Everything she did as a queen exceeded what her male predecessors had done. She now symbolizes the spirit and strength of womanhood.

When and where did Amina live?

Amina is believed to have been born in the16th century but scholars differ on the exact date of her birth. She lived in what is now Zaria City, in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

What is Amina remembered for?

She is mostly remembered as the revered warrior queen.

She reigned for 34 years and greatly expanded her kingdom through conquests. She also opened up trade routes and is believed to have initiated the cultivation of kola nuts in the territory she ruled.

The second sultan of Sokoto, Mohammed Bello, who was also a son to Usman dan Fodio, the famous Islamic Crusader, first wrote about her in his book 'Infaku'l Maisuri' (The Wages of the Fortunate). According to him, Amina was the first to introduce administration as we know it to Hausa societies, and she also had a unique gift of leadership.

What controversy still surrounds Amina's existence?

Some have argued that Amina's story is a myth and that she never existed. But there is evidence that points to her existence. One example is the walls she built around the major cities she conquered. Furthermore, there are still structures and ruins of what used to be her palace and military training grounds in Zaria.

Although she didn't have children of her own, there are claims that direct descendants of her other siblings are still alive and are among the elite ruling houses of the emirate.

Her cause and place of death remains a matter of contention, but it is widely accepted that she died in battle at Atagara, a place in present day Kogi State, north central Nigeria.

How present is Amina in modern Nigeria and beyond?

Various places and institutions in northern Nigeria bear Amina's name. One of these is a government secondary school named after her in Kaduna state, Queen Amina College. There are also female hostels called Queen Amina Hall in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the University of Lagos.

The character in the US-American television series 'Xena: Warrior Princess' is said to have been inspired by Amina, princess and later queen of Zazzau.

Scientific advice on this article was provided by historians Professor Doulaye Konaté, Lily Mafela, Ph.D., and Professor Christopher Ogbogbo. African Roots is supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

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