Jump to content

Yaa Asantewaa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Queen Mother

Yaa Asantewaa I

Birth nameNana Yaa Asantewaa
Bornc. 1840 (1840)
Besease, Ashanti Empire
Died17 October 1921(1921-10-17) (aged 80–81)
AllegianceAshanti Empire
Yaa Asantewaa WarWar of the Golden Stool

Yaa Asantewaa I (born October 17, 1840 – October 17, 1921) was the Queen Mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire, now part of modern-day Ghana. She was appointed by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okese, the Edwesuhene, or ruler, of Edwesu. In 1900, she led the Ashanti war also known as the War of the Golden Stool, or the Yaa Asantewaa War of Independence, against the British Empire.[1]


Yaa Asantewaa was born in 1840 in Besease, the daughter of Kwaku Ampoma and Ata Po. Her brother, Afrane Panin, became the chief of Edweso, a nearby community. After a childhood without incident, she cultivated crops on the land around Boankra. She entered a polygamous marriage with a man from Kumasi, with whom she had a daughter.[2]

Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles in 1921. She was a successful farmer and mother. She was an intellectual, a politician, a human rights activist, a queen and a war leader. Yaa Asantewaa became famous for commanding the Ashanti Kings in the War of the Golden Stool, against British colonial rule, to defend and protect the sovereign independence of the Golden Stool.[3]

Prelude to rebellion[edit]

Yaa Asantewaa's older brother, Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpase was in a powerful position in the empire and selected Asantewaa as the Queen Mother. This was a prestigious position[citation needed] as she is responsible for protecting the golden stool, advising the King of Ashanti, and choosing candidates for the next king. During her brother's reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Ashanti Confederacy go through a series of events that threatened its future, including a civil war from 1883 to 1888.[4] When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa used her right as Queen Mother to nominate her own grandson[5] as Ejisuhene. When the British exiled him to the Seychelles in 1896, along with the King of Asante Prempeh I and other members of the Asante government, Yaa Asantewaa became regent of the Ejisu–Juaben district. After the exile of Prempeh I, the British governor-general of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool, the symbol of the Asante nation.[2] This request led to a secret meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government at Kumasi, to discuss how to secure the return of their king. There was a disagreement among those present on how to go about this. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these words:

How can a proud and brave people like the Asante sit back and look while white men took away their king and chiefs, and humiliated them with a demand for the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool only means money to the whitemen; they have searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one predwan to the governor. If you, the chiefs of Asante, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loincloths for my undergarments (Montu mo danta mma me na monnye me tam).[6]

To dramatize her determination to go to war, Yaa Asantewaa seized a gun and fired a shot in front of the men.[6]

Yaa Asantewaa was chosen by a number of regional Asante kings to be the war leader of the Asante fighting force. This is the first and only example for a woman to be given that role in Asante history.[7] Yaa Asantewaa inspired and rallied her people to fight back against the British. The traditional Ashanti military was revitalized by her passion to resist colonization.[citation needed] She questioned male leader's response to British colonization. Yaa Asantewaa challenged gender roles and urged women to stand up to fight. The Ashanti-British War of the Golden Stool – also known as the "Yaa Asantewaa War"[8] – was led by Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa with an army of 5,000.[9]

The rebellion and its aftermath[edit]

The room believed to be Nana Yaa Asantewaa's cell

Beginning in March 1900, the rebellion laid siege to the fort at Kumasi where the British had sought refuge. The fort still stands today as the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. After several months, the Gold Coast governor eventually sent a force of 1,400 to quell the rebellion. During the fighting, Queen Yaa Asantewaa and fifteen of her closest advisers were captured, and they, too, were sent into exile to the Seychelles.[10] The rebellion represented the final war in the Anglo-Asante series of wars that lasted throughout the 19th century. More than 2,000 Ashanti warriors were killed and 1,000 British troops. This was the highest death toll from the Anglo-Asante wars and lasted 6 months. On 1 January 1902 the British finally annexed the territory that the Asante Empire had been controlling for almost a century, and the Asante was transformed a protectorate of the British crown.[11]

Arnold Fredrick Hodgson required the Ashanti empire to sacrifice their ancient "golden stool" when they surrendered. The golden stool has been a revered symbol of the Ashanti nation's soul since the 17th century. The stool is 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide. It is never to be sat on but instead is placed next to the throne of the Ashante king. Despite the British defeating the Ashanti army, the golden stool was never turned over. A fake golden stool was delivered to the British governor while the nation's symbol of freedom, the ancient golden stool was kept safely hidden. in 1920, a group of African railroad builders discovered the hidden golden stool and vandalized it. They were judged and sentenced to death by the Ashanti. British authorities exiled the criminals from the Golden Coast colony before they were killed. British colonists agreed to not get involved with the Golden stool after realizing the significance of the object. The Golden Stool is still used today to initiate and crown the asantehene (Ashanti ruler).[citation needed]

Nana Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles on 17 October 1921. Three years after her death, on 17 December 1924, King Prempeh I and the other remaining members of the exiled Asante court were allowed to return to Asante. King Prempeh I made sure that the remains of Nana Asantewaa and the other exiled Asantes were returned for a proper royal burial.[12] Queen Asantewaa's dream for an Asante independent from colonial rule was realized on 6 March 1957, when the Asante protectorate gained independence as part of Ghana. Ghana was the first African nation in West Africa to achieve this feat.[13]

Social roles of Asante women[edit]

Nana Yaa Asantewaa understood the ramifications of British colonial rule. She is seen by Ghanaians today as a queen mother who exercised her political and social clout to help defend her kingdom. The role she played in influencing the Ashanti men to battle the British appears to be a function of her matriarchal status.[14] The Ashanti people are organized in a matrilineage, women descended from a common female ancestor. The ashanti believe a person's blood comes from the mother and spirit comes from the father. The queen mother was often the sister of the chief and was the head of kinship relations. Yaa Asantewaa status and warrior spirit lead the Ashanti people during an uncertain time. Nana Yaa Asantewaa's call upon the women of the Asante Empire is based on the political obligations of Akan women and their respective roles in legislative and judicial processes. The hierarchy of male stools among the Akan people was complemented by female counterparts. Within the village, elders who were heads of the matrilineages (mpanyimfo), constituted the village council known as the ôdekuro. The women, known as the mpanyinfo, and referred to as aberewa or ôbaa panyin, were responsible for looking after women's affairs. For every ôdekuro, an ôbaa panyin acted as the responsible party for the affairs of the women of the village and served as a member of the village council.[15]

The head of a division, the ôhene, and the head of the autonomous political community, the Amanhene, had their female counterparts known as the ôhemaa: a female ruler who sat on their councils. The ôhemaa and ôhene were all of the same mogya, blood or localized matrilineage. The occupant of the female stool in Kumasi state, the Asantehemaa, the united Asante, since her male counterpart was ex-officio of the Asanthene, was a member of the Kôtôkô Council, the executive committee or Cabinet of the Asanteman Nhyiamu, General Assembly of Asante rulers. Female stool occupants participated not only in the judicial and legislative processes, but also in the making and unmaking of war, and the distribution of land.[16]

Place in history and cultural legacy[edit]

Yaa Asantewaa remains a much-loved figure in Asante history and the history of Ghana as a whole for her role in confronting the colonialism of the British. She is immortalized in song as follows:

Koo koo hin koo
Yaa Asantewaa ee!
Obaa basia
Ogyina apremo ano ee!
Waye be egyae
Na Wabo mmode
("Yaa Asantewaa
The woman who fights before cannons
You have accomplished great things
You have done well")[17]

Yaa Asantewaa's legacy and memorials are a tourist attraction and revenue generator for Ghana. In 1999, 350,000 tourists came to the country and Ghana made $340 million in return. In 2000, the hundredth anniversary of the Yaa Asantewaa war, the Yaa Asantewaa festival was celebrated throughout Ghana. The festival included the Yaa Asantewaa Museum launch, an international conference, a women's convention, and a funeral service for Yaa Asantewaa's remains. The first lady of Ghana, Nana Konadu Rawling unveiled the Yaa Asantewaa museum alongside her daughters, continuing the matrilineage.[citation needed]

The museum features traditional Ashante architecture and a house Yaa Asantewaa might have lived in. Dedications to Ashante culture are visited by locals and tourists. These attractions memorializing Yaa Asantewaa's legacy bring people from all over the world together.[citation needed] Her legacy in Ghana holds pride for Ashante heritage. The effects of British colonization in Ghana are resisted by keeping Yaa Asantewaa's history alive.[citation needed]

To highlight the importance of encouraging more female leaders in Ghanaian society, the Yaa Asantewaa Girls' Secondary School was established at Kumasi in 1960 with funds from the Ghana Education Trust.[18]

In the year 2000, a week-long centenary celebration was held in Ghana to acknowledge Yaa Asantewaa's accomplishments. As part of these celebrations, a museum was dedicated to her at Kwaso in the Ejisu–Juaben District on 3 August 2000. Unfortunately, a fire on 23 July 2004 destroyed several historical items, including her sandals and battle dress (batakarikese) seen in the photograph above.[19] The current Queen-mother of Ejisu is Yaa Asantewaa II. A second Yaa Asantewaa festival was held 1–5 August 2006 in Ejisu.[20]

The Yaa Asantewaa Centre in Maida Vale, west London, is an African–Caribbean arts and community centre.[21] It took its name in 1986.[22]

A television documentary by Ivor Agyeman-Duah, entitled Yaa Asantewaa – The Exile of King Prempeh and the Heroism of An African Queen, premiered in Ghana in 2001.[23]

A stage show written by Margaret Busby, Yaa Asantewaa: Warrior Queen, directed by Geraldine Connor and featuring master drummer Kofi Ghanaba,[24][25] with a pan-African cast, toured the UK and Ghana in 2001–02.[26][27] A radio drama by the same author was also serialized in five episodes (13–17 October 2003)[28] on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour, the cast including Glenna Forster-Jones and Jack Klaff, directed by Pam Fraser Solomon, with music by Nana Tsiboe, Kofi-Adu, Jojo Yates, Asebre Quaye and Atongo Zimba.[29][30][31]

The album from British jazz troupe Sons of Kemet, Your Queen Is a Reptile, names songs after both contemporary and historical influential black women. Asantewaa's name was used for the seventh track, "My Queen is Yaa Asantewaa". Yaa Asantewaa is a worldwide regognized historic figure with contemporary value for women rights and freedom. In Germany an award was named after her to honor strong women with African origin.


For details see Yaa Asantewaa Festival.


  • Jefferson, A. W. (2016). Gold Coast Colony. In Facts on File (Ed.), World History: A Comprehensive Reference Set. Facts On File. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from [1].[32]
  • Boahen, A. A., & Boahen, A. (2004). Ghana (Republic of): Colonization and Resistance, 1875–1901. In K. Shillington (Ed.), Encyclopedia of African History. Routledge. Retrieved November 2, 2023, from [2].[33]
  • Harvey, Broxton, "Technological Resistance: West African Military Responses to European Imperialism, 1870–1914." Thesis, Georgia State University, 2020. doi:10.57709/18560950[34]
  • Ewusi, P. (2018, October 21). The Golden Stool (17th c.–). BlackPast.org. [3][35]
  • West, R. (2019, February 8). Yaa Asantewaa (mid-1800s–1921). BlackPast.org. [4][36]
  • Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Asante". Encyclopedia Britannica, 13 September 2023, [5]. Accessed 11 November 2023.[37]
  • Day, Lynda R. "What’s Tourism Got to Do with It?: The Yaa Asantewa Legacy and Development in Asanteman." Africa Today, vol. 51, no. 1, 2004, pp. 99–113. JSTOR, [6]. Accessed 11 November 2023.[38]


  1. ^ Appiah, Kwame Anthony, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (eds), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, 1999, p. 276.
  2. ^ a b Korsah, Chantal (22 July 2016). "Yaa Asantewaa". Dangerous Women. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Nana Yaa Asantewaa". nanayaaasantewaa.de. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  4. ^ "Igboho and allegory of Asantehene golden stool". TheCable. 24 July 2021. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  5. ^ "Yaa Asantewaa". Dangerous Women Project. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  6. ^ a b Aidoo, Agnes Akosua (1977). "Asante Queen Mothers in Government and Politics in the Nineteenth Century". Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria. 9 (1): 12. JSTOR 41857049.
  7. ^ Brempong, Arhin (2000). "The role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa in the 1900 Asante War of Resistance" (PDF). Le Griot. VIII – via ucalgary.ca.
  8. ^ Boyd, Herb (5 April 2018). "Queen-mother Yaa Asantewaa led the fight against British colonialism". New York Amsterdam News.
  9. ^ "Queen Mother Nana Yaa Asantewaa of West Africa's Ashanti Empire". blackhistoryheroes.com. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  10. ^ Berry, L. V., Ghana: a Country Study.
  11. ^ Boahen, A. Adu (2003). Queen Yaa Asantewaa and the Asante-British War of 1900-1. James Currey Publishers. ISBN 978-0-85255-443-2.
  12. ^ Boahen, A. Adu (2003). The History of Ashanti Kings and the Whole Country Itself and Other Writings. British Academy. pp. 25–. ISBN 978-0-19-726261-0.
  13. ^ Bourret, F. M. (1960). Ghana, the Road to Independence, 1919–1957. Stanford University Press. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-0-8047-0400-7.
  14. ^ Karen, McGee (2015). "The Impact of Matriarchal Traditions on the Advancement of Ashanti Women in Ghana".
  15. ^ Arhin, Kwame (2001). Transformations in Traditional Rule in Ghana: 1951–1996. Sedco. ISBN 978-9964-72-173-2.
  16. ^ Arhin, Kwame, "The Political and Military Roles of Akan Women", in Christine Oppong (ed.), Female and Male in West Africa, London: Allen and Unwin, 1983.
  17. ^ "Yaa Asantewaa", in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, 2008, quoting Arhin, p. 97.
  18. ^ "Yaa Asantewaa Senior High School". Eveyo. Archived from the original on 21 February 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Fire guts Yaa Asantewaa Museum", GhanaWeb, 25 July 2004.
  20. ^ Public Agenda (16 January 2006).
  21. ^ Carnival Village website.
  22. ^ Dixon, Carol, "Spotlight: April – May 2002 Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre" Archived 8 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Casbah Project.
  23. ^ Dadson, Pajohn, "Ghana: Yaa Asantewaa Has Landed", AllAfrica, 18 May 2001.
  24. ^ Wilmer, Val, "Kofi Ghanaba obituary", The Guardian, 7 February 2009.
  25. ^ Boateng, Osei, "Yaa Asantewaa on stage: The Exploits of Yaa Asantewaa, the Warrior Queen of the Asantes in Ghana...", New African, 1 April 2001. The Free Library.
  26. ^ Busby, Margaret, "Obituary of Geraldine Connor", The Guardian, 31 October 2011.
  27. ^ Duodu, Cameron, "Yaa Asantewaa—Warrior Queen", New African, 1 June 2001. The Free Library.
  28. ^ "Yaa Asantewaa" Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, RadioListings.
  29. ^ "Black History Month: Yaa Asantewaa | BBC Radio 4". Radio Times | Programme Index. 11 October 2003.
  30. ^ BBC Radio 4 Promotion Note, Title: YAA ASANTEWAA by Margaret Busby.
  31. ^ "Briefing: Yaa Asantewaa", The Herald, 13 October 2003.
  32. ^ "Gold Coast Colony". search.credoreference.com. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  33. ^ "Ghana (Republic of): Colonization and Resistance". search.credoreference.com. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  34. ^ Harvey, Broxton (2020). "Technological Resistance: West African Military Responses to European Imperialism, 1870–1914". Georgia State University. doi:10.57709/18560950.
  35. ^ Ewusi, Philip (21 October 2018). "The Golden Stool (17th c.–)". Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  36. ^ West, Racquel (8 February 2019). "Yaa Asantewaa (mid-1800s–1921)". Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  37. ^ "Asante | History, Culture & Language | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 14 December 2023.
  38. ^ Day, Lynda Rose (2004). "What's Tourism Got to Do With It?: The Yaa Asantewa Legacy and Development in Asanteman". Africa Today. 51 (1): 99–113. doi:10.1353/at.2004.0060. ISSN 1527-1978.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Yaa Asantewaa: The Heroism of an African Queen, Accra, Ghana: Centre for Intellectual Renewal, 1999.
  • Nana Arhin Brempong (Kwame Arhin), "The Role of Nana Yaa Asantewaa in the 1900 Asante War of Resistance", Ghana Studies 3, 2000, pp. 97–110.