Great African Queens: Beyond Frame Dresses

Great African Queens: Beyond Frame Dresses

african queens

For many centuries, the image of queens has been internalized in Western culture to the standard of European royalty. Fancy dresses, endless castles and a false leadership that boiled down to being beside the king on the throne.

This vision was reinforced and highly widespread when Walt Disney bought the stories of European fairy tales and turned them into entertainment, such as films, for example. There are few animations that escape this model.

However, little is said about African queens due to cultural rancidity and drowning out of highly raped ethnic groups during the period of maritime expansion, which generates prejudice and the lack of space for this theme. African leaders were not marked by princes and love stories. They are examples of force, questioning, claiming – and changing – the current order.

Nzinga Mbandi

Nzinga Mbandi, queen of Angola, is the protagonist of the first story. For some, a cruel woman, for others, carries the symbolism of resistance against Portuguese colonialism of the 17th century. Nzinga was the daughter of King Ngola Mbandi Kiluanji and this meant that, from a young age, she was already involved in issues of territoriality and slavery policy, because in the first invasions of Angola, the Portuguese did not find mines in the region and soon changed their objective, which it would be the capture of slaves, to guarantee the labor of the colonies.

When King Ngola died in 1617, the eldest son took power and, fearing some popular uprising in favor of his sister, ordered them to execute his only son. However, Portugal began to win battles and conquer land, destabilizing the people and the kingdom. Thus, the king yielded and delegated power to his sister, who in addition to being a strategist, was fluent in Portuguese, which made it possible to negotiate with the Portuguese governor João Correia de Souza.

When Nzinga arrived at the palace to start negotiations, she noticed that the governor was positioned in a huge armchair, while, for her, there was only a rug on the floor. Without hesitating, the queen summoned one of her servants, who knelt down for Nzinga to sit on her back, thus staying at the same height as Correia de Souza. This act meant a great deal of importance in the story, as she would speak to him in the same equation of equality.

After arduous negotiations, the Portuguese withdrew their troops and this reinforced the competence of the queen, who ruled the Mbundu people for more than 40 years and is a symbol of leadership and the struggle against colonialism.

Amina Mohamud

Queen Amina Mohamud, in addition to resistance, demonstrated a total breakdown in the Nigerian political and patriarchal system, since she was the country’s first queen. Amina was born in 1533, in Zazzau, a small province in Nigeria. Daughter of wealthy kings and merchants. When her father died, her brother, Karama, took the throne and Amina, instead of helping with family matters, decided to pursue a military career, which was unusual for the reality of women at the time.

The warrior won the respect of the army formed by men and, after the death of her brother, she was the first woman to rule Zazzau, and after only months, she commanded her first military campaign and conquered many territories, which led her to have more 20,000 men under his leadership.

Some historians say that after each battle, Amina chose a man to sleep with her and sentenced him to death the next morning, but this curious fact is not documented to be true. Even today, the queen and warrior is remembered in Nigeria as “Amina, the woman as capable as a man”.


Born in 69 BC, Cleopatra represents power, ambition, leadership and, above all, a strong ability to adapt to situations and reinvent herself to achieve her goals.

At ceremonial events, she appeared dressed as the Goddess Isis, as most Egyptian rulers identified with the deity and, on coins minted in Egypt, her image was head and chin up, imposingly, just like the his father, as a way of emphasizing his right to the throne.

In addition to versatility, Cleopatra was a political leader capable of anything to establish her power, including killing some brothers, marrying others, and also engaging with governors of the time in order to gain support for her reign and establish negotiations, as was the case of his relationship with Júlio César and Marco Antônio.

Like most strong women who occupy positions normally occupied by men, Cleopatra was misinterpreted and still is, even today, by some versions of her story. Many say that she used her charm and seduction, that she was hysterical and arrogant. When, in fact, the queen who ruled Egypt for over 20 years spoke nine languages ​​and was absurdly strategist and intelligent, which facilitated her negotiations and the maintenance of her throne.

Women in society

In fact, knowledge about feminism, struggles and manifestations is of great importance for the history of women and for the formation of girls who are currently growing up with the look of equality and equity.

But, in addition to the knowledge related to movements and rights, it is necessary to look at these women, like countless other African queens, who challenged power when this possibility was not even part of the imaginary, in different times and contexts. Queens capable of killing, leading and imposing themselves in the midst of societies that had no name for it.

Africa is the cradle of struggle, of feminist revolution without name and documentation, of deconstruction and, above all, of courage. Courage to act, challenge and keep alive the memory of countless women who inspired and serve as an inspiration until contemporary times.