Yaa Asantewaa

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Yaa Asantewaa
Edwesohemaa (Queen Mother of Ejisu)
YaaAsantewaa1.jpg
Reign c. late 1800's
Birthplace Ejisu, Ghana
Consort to Owusu Kwabena
Children Amma Seiwaa Boankra

Yaa Asantewaa was an Edwesohemaa (queen mother of the Edweso tribe of the Asante) in modern day Ghana. At the time, the Gold Coast (west-central Africa) was under British military control. The British supported their campaigns against the Asante with taxes levied upon the proud Asante people. In addition, they took over the state-owned gold mines thus removing considerable income from the Asante government. Missionary schools were also established and the missionaries began interfering in local affairs. Yaa Asantewaa is often credited with empowering the people to rise up against the British.

Early Life

According to transmitted family traditions provided by the descendants of Yaa Asantewaa as well as by other well-informed sources, she had a normal childhood. This meant that she performed such mundane domestic chores as fetching water from the stream, doing the dishes, sweeping, running errands and assisting with farm work. When she attained the age of puberty, she had the necessary rite of passage for Akan girls (bragro) performed for her. She then went on to marry Owusu Kwabena, a son of Asantehene Osei Bonsu. As the only (surviving) daughter of her mother, this was a very important stage of her life because the hopes for the continuity of her specific lineage depended on her. Yaa Asantewaa took her role as a matriarch very seriously. She appeared to have married early. When she was about fifty-six years old, her third grandchild, Kofi Tene, already had about six children. She satisfied this important requirement by producing her only child, a daughter, Amma Seiwaa Boankra, from the only marriage that she was known to have contracted. Incidentally, Ama Seiwaa was to produce eleven children herself - three daughters and eight sons. One of these sons, Kofi Tene, later succeeded to office as Edwesohene Akwasi Afrane Kuma. He was abducted and exiled by the British in 1896 with Asantehene Agyeman Prempe I and other important advisors After the Asante Wars.[1]

Yaa Asantewaa Wars

Near the end of the 19th century, the British exiled King Prempeh from the hinterlands of the gold coast (present day Ghana), in an attempt to take over the entire country. By 1900, still not gaining control, the British sent a governor to the city of Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti, to demand the Golden Stool, the Ark of the covenant of the Ashanti people. The Golden Stool was the supreme symbol of the sovereignty and the independence of the Ashanti, a fierce and warlike people who inhabit dense rain forests of what is now the Central portion of Ghana. The Governor in no way understood the sacred significance of the Stool, which according to tradition, contained the soul of the Ashanti. Yaa Asantewaa was present at the meeting with the governor and chiefs. When the meeting ended, and she was alone with the Ashanti Chiefs, she said,

"Now I have seen that some of you fear to fight for our King. If it were in the brave days of old, the days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anoyke and Opulu Ware, Ashanti Chiefs would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared speak to Ashanti Chiefs in the way the Governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. If you men will not go forward, then we the women will. I will call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men until the last of us falls in the battlefields."

Yaa Asantewaa's speech stirred up the men, The Ashantis, led by Yaa Asantewaa, fought very bravely. The British sent 1400 soldiers with guns to Kumasi, capturing Yaa Asantewaa and other leaders and sent them into exile. The war with the British started in 1805 and ended some 100 years later. Yaa Asantewaa's War was the last major war led by an African woman in the era of colonialism. [2]

Notes

  1. http://www.jendajournal.com/vol1.1/donkoh.html
  2. Van Sertima, Ivan; John Henrik Clarke, others (April 1984). Black Women in Antiquity. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-87855-982-5.
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