Historical Figures

Aminatou de Zaria, the warrior queen

Aminatou of Zaria (1533-ca. 1610), "the warrior queen", was the daughter of Queen Bakwa Turunku of the Hausa city-state of Zazzau (or Zaria, in Nigeria); she is known for her courage and her warlike exploits.

Daughter of the King of Zaria

Little is known about the life of Aminatou of Zaria and historians do not all agree on her status, princess or queen, but her conquests and her talent for the military arts are recognized.

Aminatou was 16 when in 1539, she became the heiress of her father, king of Zazzau, whom her mother then renamed Zaria. Interested in the arts of war, Aminatou learned about them in particular by training with her father's soldiers.

Military campaigns

Her father died in 1566 and the throne passed to Aminatou de Zaria's brother, Karama. Karama reigns over Zaria for ten years but dies in turn, in 1576. Aminatou would then have taken over from him, although the fact that she accedes to the throne remains controversial. However, it turns out that she then embarked on a series of military campaigns to expand the territory of Zaria. For 34 years, Aminatou won many victories and subjugated the conquered regions, to the north, south and west. He is credited with building earthen fortifications around towns in the region.

The Warrior Queen of the Hausa

An important person in Nigerian history, nicknamed "the warrior queen of the Hausa", Aminatou de Zaria appears in a popular song which presents her as follows:"Aminatou daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man". Several myths surround it. It is said in particular that she would never have married but that, in each conquered city, she would have chosen a lover for the night before killing him in the morning.

Aminatou de Zaria served as the inspiration for the TV series character Xena.

Sources and useful links

Aminatou of Zaria – Hausa Warrior-Queen
Aminatou’s Wikipedia entry
Aminatou’s Wikipedia entry (English)

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