Africa, a vast and plural continent. If it has given birth to humanity, it has also seen women grow up fierce, fearless and courageous. Warrior princesses, intractable sovereigns, passionate lovers … Here is a selection of the great ladies who have dominated Africa and its empires over the centuries.
Candaces, black queens from beyond the Nile
1000 years before Christ, the kingdom of Kush . Prosperous and fantasized entity of amazing longevity, located south of the ancient Egyptian empire. But it has not always been so. For more than 2000 years, the Pharaohs have been plundering the riches and gold mines of Nubia and enslaving the people of the land as “blacks”. But since on Earth nothing lasts, the power of monarchs from the north begins to run out, Egypt loses some of its superb. This decline of power allows the birth of the kingdom of Kush, where the woman will play a primary role.
At the heart of Africa, on a territory straddling present-day Ethiopia and Sudan, stands a kingdom covered with miles of fertile black soil, monumental temples and gigantic pyramids. This land, which would have been the home of Zipporah , the wife of Moses, and the descendants of Solomon and Makeda , Queen of Sheba , was also a lineage of great warrior rulers, each named Candace. A political and religious change, inspired by matrilineal African empires, allows the arrival of women in power.
Nefertiti, the revolutionary beauty
One can not speak of the greatest African queens without mentioning Nefertiti , whose charm has inspired so many writers throughout the centuries. The one whose name means “the beautiful has arrived” still carries in her all the mystery and grandeur of the time of the pharaohs. Mistress of all women, the Lady of the two lands, the Beloved of the King … The set of existing honorary titles can not seem to equal its presence. As soon as he comes to the palace, the gratin of Egyptian society whispers and wonders about the origin of this beautiful and very young woman, barely 13 years old. Some say she is the niece of Queen Tiyi . Other, bad languages, do not hesitate to dispute its noble origin. According to them, she would not have a single drop of blue blood in her veins. Still others say it would be the favorite girl of a certain Toushratta , king of Mitanni , a kingdom located in the far north of Syria. The sovereign would have traveled nights to offer his daughter’s hand to an illustrious monarch. If the stories are numerous and the sources diverge, many refuse to admit that this beauty is foreign to Egypt. But the uncertain origin of his birth and the harmonious shape of his face pushes the Egyptian people to nickname their new queen Nefertiti, La Belle arrived . While the future sovereign impresses the entire empire, she also makes a strong impression on her husband. Amenhotep IV falls madly in love with the Great Royal Wife as soon as he sees her. Little by little, he abandons his harem and the arms of his concubines to devote himself to the one he calls My Beloved.
The frescoes and reliefs of the ancestral walls are witnesses of the close relationship between the two spouses: representation of the royal couple commanding the troops, the spouses on their throne, Nefertiti and Amenhotep kissing in public, on a solid gold tank drawn by two white horses, she is gently seated on the lap of her husband. Never did an Egyptian monarch devote such a cult to a woman and devoted so much room to his wife, constantly asking his artisans to carve the face of his beautiful in order to make her immortal. For him to prove his love, he will also leave him poems engraved in stone. Worms that bear its beauty, the look of “the one endowed with all the qualities and all the favors, the one whose voice rejoices the king, that she may live forever and forever” .
The number of Nefertiti murals reflects the importance of his role, which some consider even more important than that of the pharaoh. In addition to making political and military decisions, she exerts a great deal of control over her husband, which she will push for a highly controversial religious reform. Nefertiti wants her name to resonate through the ages and to be remembered as the woman who changed the face of Egypt. Desiring at all costs to please him, Amenhotep, against the advice of his advisers, follows his wife in her spiritual step. In two, they initiate the worship rendered to the god of the solar disk, Atona . The spouses order the destruction of the other idols and name Atona the supreme god. Nefertiti becomes a high priestess and becomes the intermediary between men and the god. From now on, no one can pray to Aton without renting it. They mark this radical change in the cult of ancient Egypt by changing their name. The queen becomes Nefernéferouaton, Belle is the perfection of Atona, and Amenhotep IV takes the name of Akhenaton , the one who is beneficial to Atona.Ostensibly sealing the break with the old regime, the royal couple left their palaces of Thebes and Memphis and moved to Aton’s city of the horizon, Akhet-Aton , a luminous city built on the plain between Nile and the cliffs.
Unfortunately, this upheaval marks the end of the harmonious relationship of the couple. His relatives, fearing to see other reforms disfigure the traditions, try to sow trouble in his happiness. Clans are created, the queen and Akhenaton can no longer communicate. After twelve years of love, they separate forever. Akhenaton no longer able to share the remains of Nefertiti, disavow his promises to Atona and return to Thebes. Proud Nefertiti calls him a coward and decides to stay at Akhet-Aton, not wanting to let despair end his dreams of greatness and renewal. But little by little, the inhabitants desert the new capital, leaving the Queen alone in her grand palace. She is now 25 years old and she feels her reign and her power are running out of steam. So that the beauty of his look remains eternal, Thoutmôsis , famous royal sculptor, cuts his bust, which will become legendary.
At age 30, Akhenaton died as a result of a long and painful illness. As the ultimate manifestation of his love, he asks to carve the face of Nefertiti in the corners of his granite sarcophagus. Wishing that his main wife protects his mummy after his death, he attributes to it a role traditionally devoted to great goddesses such as Neith , Neb-Hout or Aset . No one knows the final fate of Nefertiti. Is she dead alone in her empty grand palace? Has she returned to the bedside of her beloved? The pharaohs who succeeded the revolutionary couple cursed the city of Akhet-Aton and erased all traces of Akhenaton, the beautiful Nefertiti and the sun god. Until an archaeologist discovers the remains of the mystical city in 1912 and reveals its greatness to the world.
Ririkumutima Mwezi, the ambitious stepmother
The life of Ririkumutima Bizama hitanzimiza Mwezi resembles that of the wicked cartoon queens of Walt Disney, filled with a Machiavellian love for power and a fierce willingness to get it and keep it. At any price, even blood.
The Queen and Ntibanyiha have been mutual and profoundly hate for a long time. The latter is angry at Ririkumutima for tearing her son out of childbirth and the promise of the future enthronement of Mbikije offers him the perfect opportunity to take revenge. Knowing that his rival is about to take his place pushes the queen to plan his assassination and that of his son.
Tasi Hangbe, the libertine queen and her amazons
The name Dahomey gradually faded memories and conversations. Today, he does not mention the grandeur of the past. But formerly, the kingdom located in the south-west of present-day Benin lived vicissitudes worthy of the biggest Hollywood films. Like the story of the Queen of the Mino, the protective amazons of the kingdom.
Considering women just as capable as men, the queen founds an exclusively female combat regiment, her body of amazons. The Mino , some 4000 women trained to kill without flinching. Selected from adolescence, among the most robust slaves, they are trained to venerate their sovereign and give them their lives. Armed with poisoned arrows and huge machetes, they never move away from the queen in battle.They have the reputation of beheading their prisoners and brandishing bloody heads like a banner intended to defeat the fierce spirit of the enemy. If Tasi Hangbè brilliantly and strategically assumes her role as sovereign, many still blame her for her appetite and her sexual freedom. His detractors, indignant at being ruled by a debauched queen, secretly organize the assassination of his only son. It is pitch dark when one of the amazons informs the queen of the death of this one. Legend has it that she did not shed a tear and made no comment.She will remain silent until the next big royal council.
That day, Tasi Hangbe enters the hall of tributes. Richly dressed in her kita loincloths, she sits on the throne. She looks at the audience and listens to the songs and tom-toms. One speaks of her bravery in combat, her greatness of queen, her intrepid amazons and her grief of mother having lost her son. This is too much. Tasi gets up and stands in the center of the room. She gently undoes her loincloths and finds herself naked in front of an audience open-mouthed. She reaches for one of her followers, who presents a vase filled with water. The queen slips her hand and wash the private parts. The audience is outraged. But Tasi Hangbe does not care, she screams hate and pain. She curses the assembly and all the people of Dahomey, wishing her an endless misery. She gives up her title of queen and leaves the room, forever. If the misogyny and pride of King Agadja , his successor, largely erased Queen Tasi Hangbe from the official history of Dahomey, the world still remembers its Amazons, who made their enemies tremble as much as they did. fantasize.