OPINION: The Woman King: A Powerful Testament to the Strength of African Women


Courtesy photo of IMDb.com

The Woman King, a film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, has shaken audiences to their cores with the depictions of the fierce West African warrior women known as the Agojie. The film debuted in theaters on Sept. 16 and quickly dominated box offices with 19 million in ticket sales and a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But, more importantly, The Woman King delivers a powerful narrative (based on true events) on the importance of sisterhood, strength and vulnerability that makes it a must-watch.

The film follows Viola Davis as General Nanisca, the fearless and inspiring leader of the Agojie warriors, as she trains new recruits to protect the kingdom of Dahomey from the Oyo Empire and European colonizers. The Agojie served as the all-women soldiers of the Dahomey Kingdom (1625 – 1894) who were entrusted with protecting the entire nation from rivaling tribes and foreign powers.

While many of the film’s aspects are fictional, such as a “woman king” by the name of Nanisca, the characters were inspired by real encounters with Agojie warriors. Nawi, one of the movie’s most prominent characters, was inspired by what is believed to be one of the last Dahomey warriors of the same name, while Nanisca was inspired by a teenager who was seen decapitating an enemy and drinking his blood from her sword.

Aside from portraying the formidable strength and skill of the Dahomey Agojie, the film also gives viewers a glimpse into the more sentimental and emotional aspects of living a life of military service, as well as the horrors of the slave trade and how it shaped African countries and peoples. The depiction of the triumph and struggles of the Agojie women is beautifully done with stunning cinematography, magnificent acting and soundtrack. Regardless of the fictionalized aspects, The Woman King offers a rich, previously unseen perspective on the culture, history and origin of “the bloodiest bitches of Africa.”