homage to the women who, throughout the centuries, have influenced the history of Africa.
Kimpa Vita-Nsimba (1685-1706), “the Joan of Arc of the Kongo”
Kimpa Vita-Nsimba grew up during the tribal wars of the Kongo Kingdom. When she was very young, she was recognized as nganga marinda – in other words an intermediary between the human world and the spirits’ world. Then, over the years she acquired a power that threatened the King and the missionaries. In 1706, her and her family were sentenced to be burnt at the stakes as heretics. Kimpa Vita, who was later nicknamed “the Joan of Arc of the Kongo”, died at age 21 whispering Jesus’ name.
Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh, the Leader of the Dahomey Amazons in the 19th century
Seh-Dong-Hong-Beh was the leader of the famous Dahomey Amazons. (Dahomey is what is now known as Benin.). In 1851, she led this all-female army that included more than 5,000 warriors. Their most famous battle was their attack against the Egba fortress of Abeokuta (in Nigeria). 1,200 Amazons were still part of Behanzin troops who belonged to the Dahomey King, at the end of the 19th century and fought against the French colonizers. They fought until death, preferring to burn their villages rather than to leave them to the colonizers.
Cleopatra is probably the most famous woman of the Antiquity. Considered as the last Pharaoh of Egypt, she was a very strong negotiator, and disturbingly beautiful. Pursuing a love affair with Caesar in 48 BC, she follows him to Rome. Caesar’s death brings her back to the hard reality of the fight led by the future August to annex Egypt. She then choses to commit suicide by making a snake bite her breast because she did not want to witness the invasion of Egypt.
Abla Pokou, Queen of the Baoulé in the 18th century
Abla Pokou, an Ashanti princess, ruled over the Baoulé people of Ghana in the 18th century. She brought them to Côte d’Ivoire to help them escape a fratricidal war for power over the Ashanti Kingdom, in Ghana. The legend says that she had to sacrifice her child to cross a river with her people. She exclaimed then “Ba oulié” which means “the child is dead”. This name was given to her people and she ruled over them until 1760.