African history remembers that one Frederick Hodgson, a British colonial governor, called a meeting of Ashantehene local rulers in 1900 to announce the fate of King Prempeh I who had been exiled. Prempeh I was an Ashantehene King of the Ashanteman federation and he, along with Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese had been exiled to the Sychelles islands by the British for opposing colonial rule. This exiled Nana Akwasi Afrane was the man who had named Nana Yaa Asantewaa the Queen Mother of the Ejihusene, thus putting her squarely in the heart and soul of events. Hodgson’s declaration that Prempeh I would remain in exile and the Ashanti people had to surrender their “Golden Stool” to the British was the final push that made Yaa Asantewaa show her true colours. Hodgson intended to take the Golden stool, a traditional symbol of the African King’s power, and sit on it to show the British hold on the territory. Nana Yaa Asantewaa, the warrior Queen rose and challenged the world’s concept of African women and made her a representative of the gender movement way before it started “trending”.
According to Agyeman-Duar’s Yaa Asantewaa; A Woman of Iron, “Yaa Asantewaa was the Queen of Esiju, a small village 11 miles to the east of Kumasi that has now almost become a suburb of the city of Kumasi.” She was also the keeper of the Golden Stool (Sika ‘dwa) which the British sought to demean. The Sika ‘dwa was believed to have descended from heaven in a cloud of white dust and landed on the lap of Osei Tutu, the first Ashanti King. The ploy by the British was all too common for the colonialists. They would disrespect the current culture of the people so as to demystify it thus undermining its importance. After, they would impose themselves and their superiority as the ultimate culture. American author, Robert Edgerton, in The Fall of the Asante Empire says, “He (Hodgson) firmly believed that only if the Asante knew their king would never return and the Queen of England possessed the Golden Stool would they submit to British rule.”
The Queen Mother heard some of the Ashantehenes expressing their agreement to the British cultural siege and rose up to give a speech that established her African cultural and political immortality.
“Now I have seen that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King,” she started and continued, “If it were in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye and Opolu Ware, leaders would not sit down to see their King taken away without firing a shot. No white man could have dared to speak to a leader of the Ashanti in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning.”
This woman was not playing games with the colonialists. She understood that their every move was systematically poised to assert their dominance over the person of the Africans and she would not have it. While men pretended to be rational, she saw the imperialist for who he was. Even today, the Queen Mother could give pacifists a good lesson in the intricacies of colonialism.
Nana Yaya Asantewaa then said, “Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!
I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight until the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Thus started the “War of the Golden Stool” with the 5,000 Africans in the war led by the Queen. She was, however, captured on the 3rd of March in 1901 and exiled but what she stood for remains even now. Nana Yaya Asantewaa died in exile on the 17th of October in 1921 but her courage has been immortalised in names of many girls in Africa, schools and a song. The British failed to get the Golden Stool because of her bravery, a symbolic victory for African politics and culture. Africa will do well to emulate this great fighter against colonial injustices even now where neo-colonialism disguises itself in falsified Western benevolence.