Heroes of the Past – Queen Amina
Amina (also Aminatu; d. 1610) was a Hausa warrior queen of the city-state Zazzau (present-day city of Zaria in Kaduna State), in what is now in the north-west region of Nigeria. She ruled in the mid-sixteenth century. Her real biography has been somewhat obscured by subsequent legends and folk tales.
Amina was born in the middle of the sixteenth century CE to King Nikatau, the 22nd ruler of Zazzau, and Queen Bakwa Turunku (r. 1536–c. 1566). She had a younger sister named Zaria for whom the modern city of Zaria (Kaduna State) was renamed by the British in the early twentieth century. According to oral legends collected by anthropologist David E. Jones, Amina grew up in her grandfather’s court and was favored by him. He carried her around court and instructed her carefully in political and military matters.
At age sixteen, Amina was named Magajiya (heir apparent), and was given forty female slaves (kuyanga). From an early age, Amina had a number of suitors attempt to marry her. Attempts to gain her hand included “a daily offer of ten slaves” from Makama and “fifty male slaves and fifty female slaves as well as fifty bags of white and blue cloth” from the Emir of Kano.
After the death of her parents in or around 1566, Amina’s brother became king of Zazzau. At this point, Amina had distinguished herself as a “leading warrior in her brother’s cavalry” and gained notoriety for her military skills. She is still celebrated today in traditional Hausa praise songs as “Amina daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.”