Those of you familiar with the Popular TV Series, Xena: Warrior Princess, should know today that it was inspired by one of Nigeria’s great queens, Queen Amina of Zaria [1533-1610].
Born in 1533 as Amina Mahmoud, Amina was a Hausa Muslim 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.
Also known as Aminatu, Amina ruled in the mid-sixteenth century. Though her real biography has been somewhat obscured by subsequent legends and folk tales.
According to Wikipedia, 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 favoured by him. He carried her around the 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 that was able to lead men to war.”
After the death of her brother Karami in 1576, Amina ascended to the position of queen. Zazzau was one of the original seven Hausa States (Hausa Bakwai), the others being Daura, Kano, Gobir, Katsina, Rano, and Garun Gabas. Before Amina assumed the throne, Zazzau was one of the largest of these states. It was also the primary source of slaves that would be sold at the slave markets of Kano and Katsina by Arab merchants.
Only three months after being crowned queen, Amina waged a 34-year campaign against her neighbours, to expand Zazzau territory. Her army, consisting of 20,000-foot soldiers and 1,000 cavalry troops, was well trained and fearsome. In fact, one of her first announcements to her people was a call for them to “resharpen their weapons.” She conquered large tracts of land as far as Kwararafa and Nupe.
The exact circumstances of Amina’s death are not known. The nineteenth-century Muslim scholar Dan Tafa says that “She died in a place called Attaagar in 1610. It was for this reason that the kingdom of Zazzau was the most extensive among the kingdoms of Hausa since Bauchi included many regions.” Drawing on Tafa’s account, Sidney John Hogben reports that “Amina died in Atagara, near present-day Idah, for at that time Amina had pushed the frontiers of Zazzau south of the Niger-Benue confluence. But there are many contradictions surrounding her death; many authors in their books cited that she died in Vom Jos while other historian said she died in Atagara, the present-day Idah.”
Before her death, “Amina didn’t have kids, and murdered every man she had s£x with, to keep her affairs secret”, African History (@AfricanHistoryZ) post stated on Twitter.
How did Queen Amina of Zaria inspire Xena: Warrior Princess?
Xena: Warrior Princess is an American fantasy television series. It aired in first-run syndication from September 4, 1995, to June 18, 2001.
The series narrative follows Xena (played by Lucy Lawless), an infamous warrior on a quest to seek redemption for her past sins against the innocent by using her formidable fighting skills to now help those who are unable to defend themselves.
Just like Amina, Xena was a reformed warrior who travels around various cities fighting and conquering evil.
She had no husband, neither a child. She also kills any man she sleeps with, like Amina of Zaria did while on her quest.