Nana Yaa Asantewaa

Nana Yaa Asantewa

Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewa


She rallied the Asante against the British in 1900; the Anglo-Asante war of that year is named after her.  (continued...)

SOURCE: Encyclopaedia Africana: Dictionary of African Biography®™ Volume 1: Ethiopia & Ghana, Page 204


"Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king.

If it were in the brave days of, Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opolu Ware,
chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken away without firing a shot.

No white man could have dared to speak
to chief of the Ashanti in the way the Governor
spoke to you chiefs this morning."

"Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more?

I cannot believe it.
It cannot be!

I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward,
then we will.

We the women will.

I shall call upon my fellow women.
We will fight the white men.
We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."

  -- Yaa Asantewa

  Source: African Women of Power:   Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Empire:

Yaa Asantewaa (c.1850-c.1920)

Yaa Asantewaa was the queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante (Ashanti) in what is modern Ghana. At the time, the Gold Coast (west-central Africa) was under the British protectorate. The British supported their campaigns against the Asante with taxes levied upon the local population. In addition, they took over the state-owned gold mines thus removing considerable income from the Asante government. Missionary schools were also established and the missionaries began interfering in local affairs.

When the Asante began rebelling against the British rule, the British attempted to put down the unrests. Furthermore, the British governor, Lord Hodgson, demanded that the Asante turn over to them the Golden Stool, i.e. the throne and a symbol of Asante independence. Capt. C. H. Armitage was sent out to force the people to tell him where the Golden Stool was hidden and to bring it back. After going from village to village with no success, Armitage found at the village of Bare only the children who said their parents had gone hunting. In response, Armitage ordered the children to be beaten. When their parents came out of hiding to defend the children, he had them bound and beaten, too.

This brutality was the instigation for the Yaa Asantewaa War for Independence which began on March 28, 1900. Yaa Asantewaa mobilized the Asante troops and for three months laid siege to the British mission at the fort of Kumasi. The British had to bring in several thousand troops and artillery to break the siege. Also, in retaliation, the British troops plundered the villages, killed much of the population, confiscated their lands and left the remaining population dependent upon the British for survival. They also captured Queen Yaa Asantewaa whom they exiled along with her close companions to the Seychelles Islands off Africa's east coast, while most of the captured chiefs became prisoners-of-war. Yaa Asantewaa remained in exile until her death twenty years later.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1998.

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Personal Note:

The last time I was in Ghana [2000], I was traveling with the Fisk University Study Tour hosted by Ray Winbush. On one particular day of our study tour, we coincidentally arrived at an unknown village to discover a funeral procession in which Nana Yaa's bones were being interned after having been recovered from the Seychelles.

Source:  Prema Qadir