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Judith Imel Van Allen

mohumagadi (queen or queen-mother) successively of the Mmanaana Kgatla and BaNgwaketse (subgroups of the BaTswana in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, present-day Botswana), was born around 1845. She was also regent of the BaNgwaketse for her grandson, Bathoen II, later a prominent leader in colonial and postindependence politics. Gagoangwe was a daughter of Sechele I, king (kgosi) of the BaKwena, and his wife Mokgokong. As a child, Gagoangwe put out the eye of a servant, and her militantly Christian father, asserting both the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” and a certain equality among BaKwena, allowed the servant to blind his own daughter in return. She later became known as the “one-eyed queen.”

Gagoangwe first married Kgosi Pilane of the Mmanaana Kgatla, but in 1875 eloped with Bathoen I, heir to rulership (bogosi of the BaNgwaketse and later married him Gagoangwe was a devout Christian and an ...

Article

Kanuni  

Heike Becker

hompa (queen) of the Kwangali people in the northeastern Namibian Okavango region for more than thirty-five years, was probably born around the turn of the twentieth century. Very little is known about her background except that she was a member of the Kwangali royal clan. Her exact date of birth is unknown, but she was described as a young woman when she first came to power in 1923.

Kanuni became a regent in 1923 after the death of the previous hompa, Kandjimi. As a sister to both the previous hompa and his successor, she first reigned in place of the new hompa Mbuna who was still very young but had been chosen as Kandjimi s successor and approved by the colonial authorities under the newly established Native Commissioner for the Okavango District René Dickmann Mbuna also referred to as Kandjimi II died in an accident in the ...

Article

Nandi  

Kathleen Sheldon and Jennifer Weir

royal figure best known as the mother of the Zulu leader Shaka, was probably born around 1760 in what is now South Africa. Historic accounts are scarce, and the story of her life is often romanticized through myth and fiction, making it difficult to relate a purely factual biography.

The first important event of Nandi s life according to what is known about her concerns her relationship with Shaka s father Senzangakhona ka Jama s 1757 1816 Nandi of the Langeni people had a relationship with Senzangakhona that resulted in the birth of Shaka The popular story has been that they were not married perhaps because they were considered to be too closely related Other reports suggested that she became pregnant before they were able to marry so that Shaka s birth was considered irregular This issue has weight because Shaka s illegitimate status was sometimes claimed to be a ...

Article

Edna G. Bay

high official in the government of King Glele (1858–1889) of the Fon kingdom of Dahomey (located in what is now southern Benin), held the key office of Tononu, a position that is sometimes compared with that of the head wife in polygynous marriages (e.g., the woman who directed all others in the household). Reportedly the king’s favorite, Visesegan was one of thousands of the king’s wives or dependents, all of whom—women and men—were called ahosi. A woman grown wealthy through commercial activities, Visesegan played a central political role in two major internal struggles of the late nineteenth century: the question of which prince would succeed Glele, and the development of appropriate responses to French demands that led to the 1892 invasion and conquest of Dahomey.

In the late nineteenth century an estimated five thousand plus women and a much smaller number of eunuchs inhabited a series of ...

Article

David Owusu-Ansah

Asantehemaa (queen-mother) of Asante (present-day Ghana), became Asantehemaa in about 1770 and during the reign of Asante Osei Kwadwo (d. 1777). Her father was Mamponhene Asumgyima Penemo. Her mother, Yaa Aberefi, was a royal of the Golden Stool of Asante and the Oyoko clan of Kumasi.

Mamponhene Asumgyima Penemo’s marriage to Yaa Aberefi is viewed by historians of Asante as one of the series of strategic political engagements by rulers of the Bretuo clan to secure their place in the otherwise Oyoko-dominated Asante union of states. In a similar fashion, Konadu Yaadom was given as a child bride (c. 1760) in an arranged marriage to the ruler of the Mampon village of Apa, but she was claimed by Mamponhene Safo Katanka (d. 1767 who became successor ruler to the Mampon throne Upon rejecting another marriage after the death of Safo Katanka Konadu Yaadom moved to Kumasi where ...