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Yaa Asantewaa, the Asante warrior queen

March 16, 2018

A strong-willed woman who had the courage to stand by her convictions, throughout her life Yaa Asantewaa defended what she believed to be the sanctity of her land, culture and language. If need be, by fighting.

DW Videostill Projekt African Roots | Yaa Asantewaa, Ghana
Image: Comic Republic

Yaa Asantewaa - the Asante warrior queen

When did Yaa Asantewaa live? Yaa Nana Asantewaa was born in 1840 in Besease, then Ashanti Empire. She died in exile on the Seychelles on 17th October 1921.

What was Yaa Asantewaa renowned for?

She inspired and supported what is today known as the War of the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool was the Asante nation's most sacred possession, and the British representative at the time, Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, demanded for it to be brought for him to sit on, in the name of Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom.

She commented on the shilly-shally of the Asanti men regarding the British representative's demand with the remark: "Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: If you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls on the battlefield. If you chiefs will not fight, you should exchange your loin cloths for my undergarment.”

She was nominated by a number of regional Asante kings to be the war-leader of the Asante fighting force – as the first and only woman in Asante history.

She was at the war front at different times to give advice and refresh supplies for the Asante fighters – at the age of 60!

Yaa Asantewaa - defending the Golden Stool

What is Yaa Asantewaa's legacy?

Yaa Asantewaa is a very important role model and an inspiration to girls and women in Ghana and throughout Africa because of the bravery she displayed. A lot of women who go into professions that were previously dominated by men are often nicknamed Yaa Asantewaa as a way of encouragement and support.

In 2000, a museum in Ejisu was dedicated to the memory of the great warrior queen. Her family was generous enough to contribute heirlooms and articles that Yaa Asantewaa actually used, including items of clothing as well as a turtle shell in which she was said to have eaten her meals. Unfortunately, the museum was gutted by fire in July 2004. Most of the things were lost and the museum still stands in ruins.

The first Government Secondary School in Kumasi was named after her: Yaa Asantewaa Senior Gils' High School.

Pinado Abdu-Waba, Ramatu Mahmud Abubakar Jawando and Gwendolin Hilse contributed to this package. It is part of DW's special series "African Roots", dedicated to African history, a cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation.