The Queen Mother: Yaa Asantewaa of Ashanti Empire

Many magnanimous women have charmed the world, but few can compare to Nana Yaa Asantewaa’s grandeur of West Africa. Yaa Asantewaa was born in 1840 in the Asona Royal family of Besease Clan, Ghana (Ashanti Confederacy), at a period when Britain was attempting to expand its colonies in Africa. Due to the matrilineal aspect of the Ashanti community and her family’s background, it was prophesied that she would become a guardian angel and the defender of the Ashanti Kingdom against the British conquering armies’ formidable armaments. However, she became the most prominent Ashanti Queen at the turn of the twentieth century, and also she became acknowledged as a potent symbol of the entire Ashanti community. However, due to the sheer matriarchal traditions of the Asante people, her brother, Nana Akwasi, the Edweso King, was supposed to appoint her as the Queen Mother, hence making her become the second-highest rank in the entire Ashanti kingdom. With her new role, she was entrusted with many responsibilities, including guarding and maintaining the precious kingdom’s political and cultural symbol, the Golden Stool (Sikadwa). Besides, she was the king’s chief counsel and who was in charge of offering prospects to the figureheads whenever they were needed (Hobson, 2021).

The importance of tradition

Through the Royal family’s blood, Yaa Asantewaa was meticulously nurtured to become Ejisu’s queen mother, and as a result, she treasured and strictly followed her people’s traditional rules, customs and practices. In the early 1890s, the Ashanti Kingdom was a coveted and targeted destination for the British Empire when they first invaded the Gold Coast because of its abundant gold deposits. As a response, there were constant battles between British forces and Asante tribes’ people until 1893, when Asante’s warriors raided and burned some of the British-supporting coastal Africans’ hamlets (Bauer, 2021). After taking over as Commander-in-Chief of the Asante warrior force following the capture and exile of the King of Asante, Asantehene Prempeh I, she would later discover Sir. Hodgson’s (British representative) deed of sitting on the Golden Stool and launched a war against the British Empire.

The warrior queen

However, it is essential to note that the ‘Yaa Asantewaa War’ was not the first time the Ashantis and the British went head-on on a battlefield; there were a series of Anglo-Ashanti wars from 1807-1900 between British colonizers and their allies (Akyeampong, 2000). It’s recorded that the two long-term rivals’ fought more than six consecutive wars on different occasions. For instance, there was war between Britain and Ashanti soldiers in 1807, 1824, 1873, 1874, and 1896, as well as the revolutionary war of 1900, in which the prominent Queen mother, Yaa Asantewaa, was the major militia leader.

Surprisingly, the war claimed the lives of over one thousand British and their supporting African worriers. As the British colonizers ventured into Gold Coast, Yaa Asantewaa had no other option but to embark on a series of rebellions to protect her people and utilize the struggle, also known as the Anglo-Asante War, to unify her countrymen and challenge the customary position of women. To motivate her society’s leadership, Asantewaa declared that women should step up to the plate if the gentlemen of the realm failed to protect the citizens. This notion, therefore, stimulated both men and women to stand and battle for their kingdom while also challenging the traditional gender stereotypes. In her entire life, Yaa Asantewaa was considered the toughest rebel leader and a symbol of strength and resistance in the entire Ashanti society. Nonetheless, during the insurrection, she was apprehended and exiled to the Seychelles, where she perished in 1921, hence establishing a wonderful legacy for all African girls and women to follow in her footsteps (Brempong, 2000).

To honor her struggle and self-sacrifice, people worldwide describe Nana Yaa Asantewaa as a Queen mother who fought the obstacles, prejudices, and imperialism of the then-powerful British Rule throughout her reign.

A valuable lesson for today’s generation

Today in Africa and across the globe, Yaa Asantewaa is depicted as the most patriotic and intrepid African woman who has ever lived. Her fearlessness reminds the current generation about the African women’s largely untapped potential; her remarkable deeds and bravery also inspire us to stand up and question the broken system. It is astonishing, yet inspiring, believing that such boldness and perseverance by an African woman occurred generations ago. When we hear or read about the strength and courage of women like Yaa Asantewaa, we begin to look inwards and try to convince ourselves that if these women could pull off such courageous and heroic actions many decades ago. Then we, the current generation, can ascend above any impediment and struggle and be who we want to be and accomplish whatever we want to fulfill in our moment and generation. Yaa Asantewaa was and continues to be an inspiration and encouragement to all the modern African women, both born and unborn, young and elderly. As she set a standard for everyone to emulate and leaves an important message for women all over the world that they can rise above despise and elevate themselves when others try to put them down. Fortunately, there is no doubt that her revolutionary ideals have inspired this generation, as several African women have gone on to become radical voices against various sorts of injustice in society and the government at large.

The position of women in the society

Nowadays, the place of women in society is to push for gender equality, progress, participate in politics, publicly voice their opinions against injustices in society, and believe in themselves. Apart from that, as African women, we have continued to treasure our homes and families because we believe that bringing change, trust, and progress in our society can only commence with a happy and positive upbringing of children, having passionate dialogues with men, and inheriting a firm resolve to build a better future where everyone is involved in the change process.

Women of this generation should also know that life is not about rivalry or cultural stereotypes in which women are “supposed” to be inferior to men rather than equal participants in progress. They should also understand that humanity is about recognizing who you are and bringing forth your greatest qualities and that growth is about appreciation, not pressure, based on respect and affection for each person’s integrity. Hence, to build a culture of continuous improvement, everyone should have a pivotal role to play. Due to this strong mentality, women from all socioeconomic strata have entered the workforce, resulting in women’s occupations such as administrators, teachers, nurses, and social workers. Females now have access to professions and fields that were previously only available to men. Therefore, Nana Yaa Asantewaa’s heroic acts continue to serve as a compelling reminder that everyone is equal, and that is why ‘Yaa Asantewaa’ is the name of the cutlery I designed to celebrate both women and men who uphold the general societal ideals, responsibility and bravery.



Akyeampong, E. (2000). Asante at the turn of the twentieth century. Ghana Studies  

Bauer, G. (2021). African women’s political leadership. The Routledge Companion to Black Women’s Cultural Histories,  

Boahen, A. A. (2000). Yaa Asantewaa in the Yaa Asantewaa war of 1900: Military leader or symbolic head? Ghana Studies

Brempong, A. (2000). The role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa in the 1900 Asante war of resistance. Ghana Studies

Day, L. R. (2000). Long live the Queen! The Yaa Asantewaa centenary and the politics of history. Ghana Studies  

Hobson, J. (2021). The Routledge Companion to Black women’s cultural histories.

Obeng, P. (2000). Yaa Asantewaa’s War of Independence: Honoring and ratifying a historic pledge. Ghana Studies