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Yaa Asantewaa (ca. 1840–1921)

Joshua Kwesi Aikins


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Nana Yaa Asantewaa is remembered throughout Africa and the African diaspora as a leading figure in African anti-colonial resistance. She was the military leader and commander-in-chief of the Asante army during the Asante-British War of 1900–1, which is remembered as Yaa Asantewaa War. At the time of the war she was Edwesohemaa , the queen mother of Edweso, a small but important state within the Asante confederation, the largest and most powerful indigenous state in today's Ghana. Queen mothers (ahemaa , sing.: ohemaa) had important positions in the political systems of the matrilineal Akan cultures, where inheritance is traced through female lines. Most offices in the two main spheres of politics, the extended lineage and the state, are held by men, but women confer political status as well. The ahemaa had the status of female co-rulers who, together with their male counterpart (ohene) , exercised a joint authority and responsibility in all state affairs. In the absence of the ohene , the ohemaa ruled as prime authority and head of the polity. This dual line of authority was accentuated by the fact that ahemaa were older than their male co-rulers, which brought into play the importance of seniority and a corresponding duty to seek the queen mother's advice in all matters of importance to the state or the lineage. Thus, an ohemaa held a vital political office that included ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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