the Trung Sisters
Sondok of Silla
Judith the Fire
Sarrouania of Azna
the Rani of Jhansi
Amanitore, one of the powerful line of Nubian queens
known as Kandakes (the name Candace commemorates them). They co-ruled
the Meroitic empire of northern Sudan with their brothers (not their
husbands), a trait of matrilineal societies. They were buried with rich
treasure in their own pyramids. Ancient reliefs show them prevailing
in battle, and the Romans reported that one of the Kandakes lost her
eye fighting against the legions.
This photograph labelled "Kwakiutl
Chieftainess" was taken about a hundred years ago and published
in a U.S. Ethnology Bureau Bulletin. It is typical of colonial government
documents that no name is recorded, nor any other identifying information.
Yet the very presence of this woman exudes authority, and her robes
and headdress show a spiritual as well as political dimension to her
This magnificent queen's head is one
of many female portraits found among the classic Yoruba sculptures buried
at Ile-Ifé, Nigeria. Royal women exerted considerable power in
west Africa. Some, like queen Amina of Zaria, ruled in their own right.
The queen mothers often chose the next king, acted as counselors, and
in some cases had their own judicial courts, officers and warriors.
More than one of these queens deposed their own sons.
"You know that
in our country [Guinée-Bissau] 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
- - Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source: Selected
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