19 May 2010

African Women of Revolution

Yaa Asantewaa was an Ashanti queen who led resistance to the colonization of Ghana by the British. She succeeded in the short run, but the Ashanti were heavily outgunned. One of her most famous quotes states: "If you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon you my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight until the last of us falls in the battlefield."

East Africa 
[borrowed from "Shamanic priestesses of East Africa"]
The legend of Queen Nyabingi [spelled several ways] began with an amazon queen named Kitami, who possessed a sacred drum. Later generations revered her as a powerful ancestor and she spoke through priestesses called Bagirwa. Most of them were were traditional healers, chosen by Nyabingi as her prophets...

Muhumusa appears in the early 1900s as a widowed Rwandan queen mother who fled with the heir to the throne into Ndorwa, in what is now SW Uganda. She was a chief who refused to acknowledge the usurper mwame Musinga, who was allied with the German colonials. In 1911 Muhumusa proclaimed “she would drive out the Europeans” and “that the bullets of the Wazungu would turn to water against her.” She roused a military resistance which was stamped out within months, and she spent the rest of her life under detention, first by the Germans and then at the behest of the British (1912-1945).

Muhumusa became the first in a line of rebel priestesses fighting colonial domination in the name of Nyabingi. The British passed their 1912 Witchcraft Act in direct response to the political effectiveness of this spiritually-based resistance movement. 

Note: The Nyabingi movement of the 1930s inspired the Rastafarians in Jamaica. They adopted Queen Nyabingi as a spirit of liberation, and The Order of Nyabingi became an important touchstone in Rasta culture. Drumming and chanting Nyabingi took on the meaning of overcoming oppression and destroying those who committed injustice.

Nanny of the Maroons was born in Ghana, and folk history says that she came to Jamaica with the express purpose of becoming a high priestess and leader of her people, never having been a slave. She was an obeah-woman who led the eastern Maroons based in Moreton, and forged an alliance with another group led by Cudjoe.

"The War of the Women"

The Aba rebellion in southeastern Nigeria grew out of a traditional female rite of the Igbo. People were outraged at the colonial government's plan to tax women, "the trees that bear fruit." In protest, Ibo women bound their heads with ferns, painted their faces with ash, put on loincloths and carried sacred sticks with palm frond wreaths.
The Ibo women's councils mobilized demonstrations in three provinces, turning out over 2,000,000 protesters...women protestors burned down the hated British "Native Courts" and cut telegraph wires, throwing officials into panic. The colonials fired on the female protesters, killing more than fifty and wounding more. Marches continued sporadically into 1930. These mass actions became known as the Aba Rebellion of 1929, or The War of the Women. It was one of the most significant anti-colonial revolts in Africa of that day. [from "African Warrior Women"]


Today, as we celebrate the birthday of one of the most profound African intellectuals in history, Malcolm X, we must always remember to think about the importance of family and women in the Black community. Now, it is my argument that the true revolutionaries are murdered because they know and respect the importance of the African woman in society. I am not claiming that every man murdered in the name of his cause respected women, but one must find it in their soul to recognize those men who truly believed in the liberation of African people worldwide and knew the importance of women in their societies. You will find that many movements, put too much emphasis on the man as head and the women taking on secretarial roles, but in all reality, if you are to have a drastic change in the function of society, you must acknowledge the power that the African woman has and let her light shine on African progress.

Quotes by Great Men About the Importance of Women

Today, the women of the world are not content only to live as housewives. In most countries they are striving harder and harder for higher education so that they may participate in the civic duties of their community and nation. In time of war, women like men, have served their country and some of them have fought side by side with the men against the enemy." ["Education of Women"- H.I.M. Haile Selassie I-Ethiopia]

“I can hear the roar of women's silence.” [Thomas Sankara- Burkina Faso]

"If you are in a country that is progressive, the woman is progressive. If you're in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it's because the woman is aware of the importance of education. But in every backward country you'll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed its because the women don't have education." [from "Women..."- Malcolm X]

"… there were even matriarchal societies where women were the most important element.  On the Bijagos Islands they had queens. They were not queens because they were the daughters of kings. They had queens succeeding queens.  The religious leaders were women too..." [Amilcar Cabral- Guinea Bissau]

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