Sola Rey

African Princess: Yennenga the Svelte of Burkina Faso

Yennenga is considered by the Mossi to be the mother of their empire and many statues of her can be found in the capital city of Burkina Faso. She was a beautiful and beloved princess who from the age of 14, fought in battle for her father against the neighboring Malinkés. She was a famous warrior whose son Ouedraogo founded the Mossi Kingdoms.

Artist: Frans Mensink Pro-Artist in the south of the Netherlands. Art, photography.. 

Yennenga was the daughter of Nedega, an early 12th-century king of the Dagomba Kingdom in what is now northern Ghana. Skilled with javelins, spears and bows, she was an excellent horsewoman and commanded her own battalion. Yennenga was such an important fighter that when she reached a marriageable age, her father refused to choose a husband for her or allow her to marry. To express her unhappiness to her father, Yennenga planted a field of wheat. When the crop grew, she let it rot. She explained to her father that that was how she felt, being unable to marry. Nedega failed to be moved by this gesture and locked his daughter up.

Map of Burkina Faso, West Africa

One of the king’s horsemen helped Yennenga, dressed as a man, escape on her stallion. Attacked by Malinkés, her companion was killed, and Yennenga was left alone. She continued to ride north. One night, when she was exhausted from crossing a river, Yennenga’s stallion took her into a forest. She met a solitary elephant hunter called Riale. When he saw through Yennenga’s disguise, they fell in love. Yennenga and Riale had a son they named Ouedraogo, which means “stallion” and is now a common name in Burkina Faso.

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