QUEEN MOTHERS

Exploring the role of the Queen Mother. A crown-making Workshop. 

Saturday, March 12, 2022  |  11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Participant Availability up to 10 Participants between the ages of 6 – up

To participate you must RSVP through Eventbrite below. 

Workshop Details

March is Women’s History Month.

It is a national celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture, and society.
With March 8th being International Women’s Day,  a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women.

 

In this workshop, learn about two important history-making

 

Queen Mothers of Africa, Iyoba Idia of Benin and Yaa Asantewaa of the Ashanti Empire (now part of modern-day Ghana). In this workshop, we will be making a crown adornment to honor our own Queen Mothers in honor of Women's History Month!

All Materials will be supplied

This workshop will be limited occupancy so to secure your seat you must register through the Eventbrite link below.

Seats are limited and we ask that if you do register that you please arrive on time for the workshop so that the space can be utilized. 

 

PLEASE NOTE:

Masks and Social Distancing will be Required

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Click here to register

for this Workshop

If you missed our workshop, these are the incredible women we discussed before our workshop activity! 

wHO IS Yaa Asantewaa?

Leader of the War of “The Golden Stool” and Queen-Mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire (circa. 1840-1921)

An official birthdate for Yaa Asantewaa varies, but several sources cite around 1840.  She was born in Besease, Central Ghana as a member of Asona royalty from the Besease clan in Central Ghana and was of the Edweso stool line. Her brother Kwasi Afrane was enthroned as the ruler of Edweso. Yaa Asantewaa married Owusu Kwabena—one of the grandsons of Osei Yaw Akoto, the seventh King of Asante who reigned from 1824 till 1834. She was later appointed the Queen Mother of Ejisu by her brother, Edwesohene (King of Edweso) Kwasi Afrane. 

 

Queen Mothers sometimes hold as much influence as the King himself, who is usually the son or grandson of the Queen Mother. Some Queen Mothers assisted their Kings in developing public policy or even served as a proxy in the absence of the King. Women, most particularly, the Queen Mother played an important role as a gatekeeper of the Golden Stool.

The Stool is made of gold, stands 18 inches high, 24 inches long, and 12 inches wide. It was never allowed to touch the ground and was considered so sacred that no one was allowed to sit on it. It usually occupied its own throne next to the Asantehene (king).

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Image of Yaa Asantewaa (c) Wiki Commons

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Asante Golden Stool, Sika dwa kofi    (c) Wiki Commons

In Asante culture, there are stools occupied by chiefs or district rulers and there is the Golden Stool which is the most sacred object in Asante culture. It is believed that the Golden stool houses the soul of the Ashanti nation. The stool is so important to the Asante that the unity of the kingdom is believed to depend on the safety of the Golden Stool. According to folklore, the stool descended from heaven in a cloud of white dust and bestowed to Osei Tutu—the pioneer Asantehene (King of Asante) around the late 1600s.

 

Overtime there were negotiations with and battles against the British for reclamation of land and independence. As a result of such, in the late 1800’s the Asantehene and Asante leadership (including Yaa Asantewaa’s grandson; her brother, King of Edweso, had died previously) were arrested by the British and exiled, first to Sierra Leone and later, to the Seychelles Island. On March 28, 1900 Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa waged the last Ashanti war in defiance against the British, defense of their king and the demand of the Golden Stool. The war is known as “The War of Golden Stool” or Yaa Asantewaa’s War.” Some of the remaining local chiefs struggled to agree on a military solution and suggested conceding to British rule. Yaa Asantewaa was said to have responded to them in these words:

“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it were the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye and Opoku Ware I, chiefs would not sit down to see their king taken without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to the Chief of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls on the battlefield.”

Yaa Asantewaa’s words influenced the chiefs to follow her. The 6-month battle led to the death of more than 2,000 Ashanti and 1,000 British and Allied troops.  Yaa Asantewaa was captured by the British in 1901 and exiled to the Seychelles where she died in 1921, but the British never captured the Golden Stool. Her contribution to the independence struggle of the Asante confederacy against the British played a key role to the nationalist agitations of the early 20th century that led to Ghana being the first independent Sub‐​Saharan African country in the post‐​colonial era (March 1957). This was an inspiration to other countries to seek liberation and 17 African countries gained independence in 1960.

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Ghana is highlighted on the map above in black. 

wHO IS Iyoba Idia?

First Queen Mother of the Kingdom of Benin

After the end of a civil war between the two powerful sons of deceased Oba (King) Ozolua of The Kingdom of Benin (present day southwest Nigeria) over his rightful successor, his son Esigie became Oba (1504 – 1550). However, during the dispute Benin’s regional power waned significantly, compromising its status. The unity and military power of the kingdom had to be restored. His mother, Idia not only used her political counsel, spiritual powers, and medicinal knowledge (acquired pre and during her queenship) to help him restore the Kingdom, she assisted him in strategizing military campaigns and was a warrior who led many armies into battle.  Oba Esigie acknowledged his mother’s skills, power, and contribution to the restoration of the Kingdom of Benin with the creation of the new court position, “The Iyoba,”  the “Queen Mother,” which wielded substantial political privileges and status for Idia and future Iyobas.

Like Obas, ancestral altars are dedicated to past Iyobas. Our collection includes a replica of a cast brass commemorative Iyoba.

This ivory pendant mask is one of a pair of nearly identical works; one is a piece exhibited at the Met, NYC and the other at the British Museum in London. It is believed to be a likeness of Iyoba Idia that was commissioned in the early sixteenth century by Oba Esigie to honor her.

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Image of Queen Mother Pendant: Portrait of Iyoba Idia (c)The Met

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Learn more about Idea, First Queen Mother of Benin by clicking the MET Icon above.

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The Kingdom of Benin is highlighted on the map above in black. The Kingdom of Benin existed in parts of the modern countries of Benin and Nigeria. The monarchy continues to exist today as one of the traditional states of contemporary Nigeria.