African Queens: Yennenga

African Queens: Yennenga

She is known as the mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso. Her only son Ouedraogo founded the Mossi Empire.  Her father Nedega was the king of Dagomba kingdom (present day northern Ghana) in the early 12th century. She was a very beautiful princess, cherished by the whole kingdom. She was an excellent warrior; a skilled archer and horsewoman. Being tall and slender she was often mistaken for a man when riding on horseback. She commanded her own batallion. She fought in battle for her father against Dagomba’s enemies. She had 3 brothers who were also skilled fighters.


She was so precious, her father refused to allow her to get married. This made her very sad as she grew older because she yearned for love. All her peers were getting married and having children. She planted a field of wheat, when the crop grew instead of plucking it she let it rot. When her father asked her why she let this happen she explained that he was doing the same thing to her by not allowing her to get married. This only made her father more angry and he locked her up in the palace, out of fear that she would leave.

She was loved and highly respected by the palace guards, so one night a guard helped her escape on horseback. She disguised herself as a man so no one will recognize her. They were attacked by Dagomba’s neighboring rivals, the Malinkes. The guard was killed in the process, he gave his life for her. All alone, she continued to ride north. One night, after crossing a river she was exhausted and barely hanging on for her dear life. Her horse wondered into the forrest, there she met an Elephant hunter called Riale. Her took her in and nursed her back to health. They fell in love and had her son Ouedraogo.

Her story has inspired many young African women. She is the symbol of a fierce and independent woman. Her legacy still remains in Burkina Faso. There are statues of her and roads named after her.

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