History & Anecdotes

Amina of Zaria

Aminatou of Zaria  (1533- about 1610), “the warrior queen”, is 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.

 Aminatu (or Amina) lived in the 16th century in the Hausa City-States (northeast of present-day Nigeria) and which dominated trade in Sub-Saharan Black Africa, she is the daughter of Magajiya Bakwa Turunku, the 22nd king of Zazzaou. She reigned over Zazzaou (current Zaria) for more than 34 years.

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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 years old when in 1539 she became heir to her father, king of Zazzau, whom her mother renamed Zaria. Interested in the arts of war, Aminatou was introduced to them as a teenager, in particular by training with her father’s soldiers.

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 Military campaigns

 Her ather died in 1566 and the throne went to Aminatou of Zaria’s brother Karama. Karama reigned over Zaria for ten years but died too in 1576. Aminatou would then have taken over, although the fact that she rose to the throne remains controversial.

As soon as she came to power, she undertook large military expeditions, with the aim of enlarging the territory of Zazzaou. The chronicle of Kano, collection of history of the Hausa kingdoms, written in Arabic, mentions this period of conquest:

 “Aminatou took possession of all the northern cities around Kwararafa and the southern cities around Nupe. She therefore dominated a large part of the Haoussaland region, but went much further, taking control of the territory of Kasashen Baouchi. Aminatou dominated all the trade routes that linked western Sudan to Egypt. It also succeeds in conquering part of northern Mali.”

Another vestige of the reign of Aminatu, the terracotta ramparts, which can still be admired around certain Hausa cities. Indeed, it will protect the conquered cities, by erecting these walls, which are called “Ganuwar Aminatu” (in other words “Aminatu Walls”).

The warrior queen of the Hausaa 

An important person in Nigerian history, nicknamed “the warrior queen of the Hausa”, Aminatou of Zaria appears in a popular song which thus presents her : “Aminatou daughter of Nikatau, woman as capable as a man”. Several myths surround her. 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 of Zaria served as inspiration for the TV character  Xena.

Sources and historical links

Aminatou de Zaria – Reine-Guerrière Haoussa
La fiche Wikipédia d’Aminatou
La fiche Wikipédia d’Aminatou (anglais)

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