Yaa Asantewaa was an influential Ashanti queen at the beginning of the twentieth century who remains a powerful symbol today.
She was a skilled farmer before ascending to the title Queen Mother in the 1880s.
Yaa Asantewaa became famous for leading the Ashanti rebellion against British colonialism to defend the Golden stool.
She was the sister of the Ruler of Ejisu (Ejisuhene) Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpase, an ethnic group in present-day Ghana.
Date of Birth
Her birthdate is contested; she is generally believed to be born between the 1840s to 1860s in the Ashanti Confederacy in present-day Ghana.
Asantewaa was appointed queen mother by her brother, Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese. Akwasi died after the Asante civil war between 1883 to 1888.
After his death, Yaa Asantewaa, being very influential as queen mother, used her influence to nominate her grandson as Ruler of Ejisu. In 1896, her Grandson as well as the King of the Asante (Prempeh I) were exiled to Seychelles by the British.
This was Britain’s way of dealing with African kings in the past as was the case with the Benin Kingdom with the capture and exile of Oba Ovonramwen (King of Benin) in 1897. Sending a king to exile in such times was often followed by looting of their land.
This has led to the discovery of lots of Africa’s valued arts and crafts in Britain. Till date, Africa has still not been able to regain its stolen treasures.
As expected, to further entrench their authority, the British Governor-General of Ghana (then known as the Gold Coast) Frederick Hodgson, demanded the Golden Stool. The Golden stool was the symbol of the Asante kingdom.
This prompted a conference of the elders. Yaa Asantewaa was highly disgusted at the behavior of her male counterparts and insisted that if the men would not fight, she would gather the women to fight for the land.
Yaa Asantewaa led the famous war known as the War of the Golden Stool in 1900 against the British. She was captured and sent in exile to Seychelles.
Yaa Asantewa died in exile on the 17th of October 1921. Yaa Asantewa’s War was the last major war led by an African woman.
To date, she is honored in Africa as one of the greatest African women. Her body was later returned to Ghana where she was given a befitting burial.
Yaa Asantewaa remains a powerful reminder due to her impactful actions in both empowering her people and in tactics against the British army.
In August 2000, to commemorate her influence, a museum was opened in her honor in the Ejisu-Juaben District of Ghana. Similarly, there is an achievement award titled the “Nana Yaa Asantewaa Awards” (NYA) which honors women who uphold the values and leadership of Asantewaa.
Many Africans often name their daughters after Nana Yaa Asantewaa.
The late President of Ghana, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings for example named his second daughter after her.
Also, Anthony A. Williams, the previous Mayor of Washington D.C in the United States named his daughter in honor of Yaa Asantewaa.
The Yaa Asantewaa Girl’s Secondary School
She is honored with a school named after her, ‘Yaa Asantewaa Girl’s Secondary School’.
The school was established in 1961 as part of the rapid educational expansion project pioneered by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first Ghanaian President after the independence of the country.