Culture & Tourism

Queen Amina of Zaria: A Warrior Queen and A 2021 Netflix Movie


Queen Amina of Zaria

Since the foundation of the world, women across many cultures have been victims of marginalization and stereotypical social constructs that limit all there is to a woman. They come in the form of unfair gender roles, unreasonable taboos and customs, and some other harmful cultural practices.

It is also easy to forget women’s contributions to forging kingdoms, shaping history, breaking barriers, prevailing against patriarchy, and quelling injustice. These women have proven to be more than mothers and housewives, but also warriors, leaders, activists, nation builders and proficient workers, defeating marginalization and proving there is more to a woman than what the society thinks her role to be.

Seated, unshaken, and unforgettably in history is Queen Amina of Zaria, who ruled Zazzau (present-day Zaria). While the truth about her existence seems shrouded in legends, exaggerations, and folk tales, her reality still inspires millions of women around the world. Coming rather later than it should, a movie that narrates the life and time of Amina, the legendary Queen of Zaria.

The Early Life of Queen Amina of Zaria

Queen Amina of Zaria
Kerstin Geier / Getty Images


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Amina was born halfway into the 16th century in Zazzau, present-day Zaria, in Kaduna State. She was born somewhere between 1536 and 1566 to King Nikatau, of the ruling family of Barwa Turunku. Her father was the 22nd ruler of the Zazzau Kingdom. Zazzau was later renamed Zaria by the British, after Amina’s younger sister.

Amina means truthful or honest. Oral legends have it that Amina grew up in King Zazzau Nohir, her grandfather’s courtyard. She was the old man’s favourite and learnt about the military and politics from him. One time, Amina’s grandmother found her holding a dagger. She was more shocked that Amina was holding the dagger as a warrior would.

Aminatu’s parents died around 1566. Her brother, Karami, became the king of Zazzau. However, his reign was short-lived as he died in 1576. By this time, Amina already showed a great flair for the military. She was already one of the leaders in the calvary as a fearsome warrior.

Amina’s Reign and Zazzau’s Expansion

Zazzau was one of the largest of the original seven Hausa states. The other states were Daura, Gobir, Kano, Garun Gabas, and Rano. Zazzau was prominent for providing slaves for slave markets in Kano and Katsina.

Amina soon started waging wars with neighbouring kingdoms just months after she became Queen, the 24th Habe of Zazzau. She called that the army “re-shapen their weapons”. Her strong army was a reputed force of 20,000 soldiers and a thousand cavalry troops that took lands up to the ends of Nupe and Kwarafa.

From the stories narrated by John Hogben, Amina got herself a new lover in every one of those lands she conquered. They all never make it past the following day, however. She beheads them, so they don’t live to tell the story.

Zazzau prospered with Amina at the helm of affairs. She built a mud wall around every of her new acquisition. Many of these walls were pulled down when the British arrived in the early 20th century. Ganuwar Amina, translated Amina’s wall is a part of the surviving walls.

Queen Amina of Zaria’s Death

Seeing how vast the kingdom of Zazzau crawled to during her 34-year reign, it was somewhat difficult to tell where she died. The circumstances around her death are also unknown. Some historians believe she died at Attaagar (or Atagara), now called Idah, during a military campaign around 1633. Others say she died in Vom, Jos. At this time, the boarders of Zazzau had reached south of the River Niger and Benue’s confluence.

There is also this story about an Arabian prince who came across the desert to look for her. After spending the night with her and seeing her naked, the prince was said to have fled very early in the morning before Amina could kill him. Amina was said to have gone amok, realizing a man had seen her naked. She then took her life.

Regardless, her death was said to have a steady diminutive influence on the ruling class Hausa women in terms of autonomy and authority, as Michael Crowder, a British historian noted.

In his 1836 (circa) book titled Infaq al- Maysur (the wages of the fortunate), Mohammed Bello, the 2nd Sultan of Sokoto narrated Queen Amina’s leadership style. He further corroborated her title – a woman like a man and the first to establish a government. She surpassed her predecessors and now have to be lazy. She is still called “Amina, Tar Bakwa ta san rana”. This means “Amina, the daughter of Bakwa, a woman as that can do as much as a man”.

Queen Amina’s Legacy

Queen Amina of Zaria - Netflix Movie


Since the 17th century, the legendary acts of Queen Amina of Zaria have been passed down from generation to generation. She is one of the most inspirational women in Nigeria’s history, with various places and structures named after her across the country. These include Queen Amina College in Kaduna State and female halls of residence in the University of Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Xena: Warrior Princess is an American TV Series reportedly inspired by the life and times of Amina as a princess and queen.

Izu Ojukwu’s Amina is, perhaps, the first adaptation of her story into a movie and should be on Netflix on 4th November. The movie, which has been in the works since 2015 or so, is much anticipated. Watch the amazing trailer here.

In conclusion, regardless of the uncertainties surrounding her life, thanks to inadequate documentation, Queen Amina of Zaria was a phenomenal woman. She was just one of those women who have defied the norm and forged an unprecedented path for women of her contemporaries and an inspiration to many more even after four centuries.  


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