Yaa Asantewaa in
(ceremonialwar dress) in an undated photograph.
now part of modern-dayGhana
Prelude to rebellion
During her brother's reign, Yaa Asantewaa saw the Asante Confederacy gothrough a series of events that threatened its future, including civil warfrom 1883 to 1888. When her brother died in 1894, Yaa Asantewaa usedher right as Queen Mother to nominate her own grandson as Ejisuhene.When the British exiled him in theSeychellesin 1896, along with theKing
of Asante Prempeh Iand other members of the Asante government, Yaa
Asantewaa became regent of the Ejisu-Juaben District. After thedeportation of Prempeh I, theBritishgovernor-general of theGold Coast,
Frederick Hodgson, demanded theGolden Stool, the symbol of the Asante
nation. This request led to a secret meeting of the remaining members of the Asante government atKumasi, to discuss how to secure the return of their king. There was a disagreement among those present on how to go about this. Yaa Asantewaa, who was presentat this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these now-famous words:
Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king. If it [was] in the brave days of Osei Tutu,Okomfo Anokye, andOpoku
Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! Imust say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We willfight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.
With this, she took on leadership of the Asante Uprising of 1900, gaining the support of some of the other Asantenobility.
The rebellion and its aftermath
Beginning in March 1900, the rebellion laid siege to the fort at Kumasi where the British had sought refuge. The fortstill stands today as the Kumasi Fort and Military Museum. After several months, the Gold Coast governoreventually sent a force of 1,400 to quell the rebellion. During the course of this, Queen Yaa Asantewaa and 15 of herclosest advisers were captured, and they too were sent into exile to the Seychelles.
The rebellion represented thefinal war in theAnglo-Asanteseries of wars that lasted throughout the 19th century. On 1 January 1902, the Britishwere finally able to accomplish what the Asante army had denied them for almost a century, and the Asante empirewas made a protectorate of the British crown. Yaa Asantewaa died in exile on 17 October 1921. Three years after herdeath, on 27 December 1924, Prempeh I and the other remaining members of the exiled Asante court were allowedto return to Asante. Prempeh I made sure that the remains of Yaa Asantewaa and the other exiled Asantes werereturned for a proper royal burial. Yaa Asantewaa's dream for an Asante free of British rule was realized on 6 March1957, when the Asante protectorate gained independence as part of Ghana, the first African nation to achieve thisfeat.