Queen Amina of Zazzau: A West African Warrior Queen

Image of Queen Amina of the Zazzau Kingdom of West Africa
Queen Amina (also known as Queen Aminatu), was the elder daughter of Queen Bakwa Turunku, the founder of the Zazzau Kingdom in 1536. Some scholars date Queen Amina's reign to about 1549, as heir apparent after the death of her mother. This medieval African kingdom was located in the region now known as the Kaduna State in the north-central region of Nigeria, capital at the modern city of Zaria. Zaria (aka Birnin Zaria) was named after Queen Amina's younger sister Zariya, and is where the Royal Palace of Zaria resided.

The earliest commentator to mention Queen Amina is Muhammed Bello's history Ifaq al-Maysur, composed around 1836. Queen Amina is also mentioned in the Kano Chronicle, a well-regarded and detailed history of the city of Kano and the surrounding Hausa people. It was composed in the late 19th century and incorporated earlier oral histories before the Fulani jihad of 1804-1810. It included king-lists of the various Hausa kingdoms.

Known as a great military strategist, the cavalry-trained Queen Amina fought many wars that expanded this southern-most Hausa kingdom. According to the Sankore Institute of Islamic - African Studies International, a non-profit, non-political educational institution, reporting on this region of the Hausa:
These seven regions witnessed many unusual and strange events. The first to establish government among them, as it has been claimed, was Amina, the daughter of the Amir of Zakzak. She made military assaults upon these lands until she proclaimed herself over them by force. The lands of Katsina and Kano were forced to hand over levy to her. She also made incursions into the lands of Bauchi until she reached the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. She died in a place called Attaagar. It was for this reason that the kingdom of Zakzak was the most extensive among the kingdoms of Hausa, since Bauchi included many regions.
Here, it appears that Zakzak is Zazzau, and the reference is to Queen Amina.

Public sculpture of the warrior Queen Amina in Nigeria
Queen Amina is a legend among the Hausa people for her military exploits. She controlled the trade routes in the region, erecting a network of commerce within the great earthen walls that surrounded Hausa cities within her dominion. According to the Kano Chronicle, she conquered as far as Nupe and Kwarafa, ruling for 34 years.

Commemorative stamp of Queen of Amina of Zaria.
By 1805, the region was captured by the Fulani during the Fulani jihad. By 1901, Frederick Lugard led British forces and captured Zaria as a protectorate state. This is the same year that it is reported that Zaria sought British protection against slave raids from the Kontagora region. After a Zaria magaji (representative) murdered the British Captain Moloney in 1902 at Keffi, the British stripped the emirate of most of its vassal states. Since Nigeria's independence from the British in 1960, Zaria is one of its largest traditional emirates.

Photo: Gate to the palace of the emir of Zazzau
Zaria city was originally surrounded by walls built by Queen Amina, but those walls have since been removed. The above shown entrance is to the palace of the Emir of Zazzau. The emir counsels over a region larger than the city of Zaria. Despite the rise of the nation-states in Africa, the emirs exert significant power within the region and represents the continuation of the traditional leadership of the historical kingdom-states.

Photo: community in city of Zaria, representing traditional Hausa architecture in Africa.
Zaria is home to Ahmadu Bello University, the largest university in Nigeria and the second largest university on the African continent. The university is very prominent in the fields of Agriculture, Science, Finance, Medicine and Law.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A splendid military strategist,Amina raised great walled camps amid her different campaigns, and is by and large credited with the building of the acclaimed Zaria divider.She is today recollected-by some affectionately,by others less so - as Amina,Yar Bakwa ta san rana,importance Amina,girl of Nikatau,a lady as proficient as a man.After all thanks a lot for your nice post.
    discover Africa history

  3. Kudos to this website for its integrity in this narrative of a Great Black queen.
    She is truly a Heroin, Moreover an Icon for Us, Black or African Women throughout the world. I thin because of the erradication of our history, we need to see this aspect of history here in America as it was stolen and taken away from us. Let us ask allah to Bless her and give her peace and raise her to the heights of those who were warriors fighting for her people and Let us give her Libation as descendants of hers.

  4. Nice post,i need this article alot

  5. I wish the sight where she ruled will be value and reserved by the Nigerian Government. lot of reminent left there.

  6. Was Zariya , Amina's sister, aso a queen?

    1. No, she was not a queen. and apparently, Amina wasn't a queen too. she was the 1st general of the army but was publicly acclaimed queen due to the level of success she had.

  7. Queen Amina, if i may ask what is the actual problem that made Queen Amina to fight


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