In a post a couple of weeks back on diversity and representation, I inveighed against a phony diversity sought by simply sticking people of different ethnicities into standard-fare, oft-told European and American tales. Far better to go farther afield for history and folklore. I cried out:
Give us Dahomey Amazons!
Well, that’s happening. There’s not a lot of information available as of yet, but September 2022 should see the release of The Woman King. Here’s the caper:
The Woman King follows Nanisca, (Viola Davis) the general of the Dahomey Amazons, and Nawi, an ambitious recruit in the Kingdom of Dahomey. The film will depict how the pair “fought enemies who violated their honor, enslaved their people, and threatened to destroy everything they have lived for.”
The Dahomey Amazons were an all-female regiment of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. The Kingdom was powerful, well-armed and militaristic, having been built upon providing Africans taken in raids for the Atlantic slave trade. After 1840, the Kingdom was weakened by the end of Britain’s slave trade, and through the late 19th Century, they came under French colonial pressure, resulting in a couple of wars.
Situated in western Africa, the kingdom of Dahomey (or Abomey in its earliest years) was formed by a mixture of various local ethnic groups on the Abomey plain. The tribal groups, possibly forced to move due to the slave trade, coalesced around a highly centralised, strict military culture which was aimed at securing and eventually expanding the borders of the small kingdom.
The kingdom became a major regional power in the 1720s when it conquered the coastal kingdoms of Allada and Whydah.* With control over these key coastal cities, Dahomey became a major center in the Atlantic Slave Trade until 1852 when the British imposed a naval blockade to stop the trade. War with the French began in 1892 and the French took over the Kingdom of Dahomey in 1894. The throne was vacated by the French in 1900, but the royal families and key administrative positions of the administration continued to have a large impact in the politics of the French administration and the post-independence Republic of Dahomey, renamed Benin in 1975. Historiography of the kingdom has had a significant impact on work far beyond African history and the history of the kingdom forms the backdrop for a number of novels and plays.
There is some serious badassery to be found here. Hope the movie does the subject justice.
* If the name Whydah rings a bell…
Whydah was the name of the slave ship captured by the pirate Black Sam Bellamy and turned into a powerful flagship. The Whydah Galley sunk in a powerful Nor’easter off of Cape Cod on April 26, 1717, killing almost all of its crew, including Bellamy. The ship was discovered by Barry Clifford in 1984 and became the finest treasure trove of pirate artifacts — and booty — ever recovered.