Dora Milaje and the African Amazon Women’s Traditions
I was going to wait till after some of you saw the movie Black Panther but I just haaaaad to put something to paper. The movie itself was so deep and complicated covering soooo many layers of African Psyche from a global perspective that I will be sure to write about it later but right now… I want to talk about these Badd Azz Sistas… Dora Milaje…. and not just about the costumes and the superior battle scenes… Admittedly I didn’t know what their names were until recently when I saw it in print… DORA MILAJE… and right there it stood out… MI and AJE. So for those who have followed my blog you already have read my post on Iyami Aje and the Women of Power in the Ifa Orisa Tradition. For those who have not, Iyami means my mother. Aje means wealth and also the power of a woman..depending on the Yoruba grammatical marks. Still it speaks to African women of power who protected the kingdom and were not the docile handmaidens some suggest. I don’t want to get too deep into the back story to stay on topic but the Dora Milaje apparently have a powerful history that mirrors the Ancient Womens traditions of the Iyami Aje as well as the African Amazon Traditions. Yeah.. they did their research!
So the Dora Milaje is depicted in the movie and comic book series as an elite all female fighting force who are the protectors of the king of Wakanda . Their allegiance is to the crown and they protect it with their lives. According to Marvel, they are alternatively called the Adored ones and Midnight Angels and are drawn in from every tribe in Wakanda. Each was a potential Queen to the King. They speak their own language that is, according to Marvel, Hausa. To the new feminist, this is just great. Women are finally shown as real warriors… To those who wish to depict black women as simply subservient and passive, overly emotional and high sexed, or as Angry Black Women, they are probably beside themselves with angst. lol… Good! They are probably saying depicting them this way is the problem with the black community… “Black women don’t know their place!” But I want to caution you to assume this is a new development for women… and especially women in Africa. You see, this is actually our real history. .. Its not just a imaginary comic book theme. And it is welcome because it demonstrates how women can be strong yet it does not alienate their male counterparts.
African has a long history of Amazonian women who were outstanding fighters. The Berbers in North Africa has a long history of female fighters who protect the King. As much as people hated to recognize him, Muammar Gaddafi recognized this as his Berber ancestral tradition and had his own squad of female bodyguards. The pre Islamic North African Berber Amazon women were known in Greek history and mythology and were respected and feared. One of their primary divinities was Tanit who became Neith in ancient Egypt. She became Athena in Greece… She is shown with a bow and arrow and depicted as a warrior goddess. The name Amazon itself came from the original ethnic name of those women AMAZIGH . The last of that era was an Amazon Queen named Kahina who led the resistance against Arab invasions. Tin Hinan of the Tuareg was also an Amazon Queen. She was found in her tomb wearing 7 silver bracelets on her left and 7 gold bracelets on her right. It doesn’t go unnoticed that the Dora Milaje also wear these bracelets with the General wearing gold for her rank while the other wear silver.
The Kikuyu women were another group of African women known for their kick ass abilities. Kikuyu women were known to fight as well if not better than any man. Below is a Kikuyu woman shown carrying the traditional Muthigi (stick)signifying power to lead and Itimu (Spear)-power to call people to war. The Dora Milaje used their technologically advanced spears masterfully to combat threats to the point where guns were considered primitive!
The Dahomey Amazons were another group of warrior women. They called themselves the N’Nonmiton, which means “our mothers and they were considered a band of terminators deeply feared by European colonizers. They too protected the king and were known for their trademark of cutting off their enemy’s head. They were 6000 strong. They were not just mythical either. The last known one Named Nawi dying as recent as 1979 at a 100 years old.
These are just a few of the women fighters in African History that are often less known. There was also the Igbo women who waged the Women’s war against the colonist over taxes. There was of course Yaa Asantewaa protecting her stool in Ghana. There were the Nyabinghi in Uganda who also fought colonial powers. Oya, the warrior queen of the Yoruba Alafin Sango was known to fight before and with him side by side… And Osun and Yemoja, though water also carried swords demonstrating their relationship to divine justice. The list can go on but you get my point.
What also makes this interesting for me is that the Dora Milaje carry similar spiritual descriptions of the ancient mothers Iyami.. Iyami are known as elders of the night and affiliated with birds and flying just as the Dora are called Midnight Angels drumming up similar images. Iyami are who determine kingship and who are traditional psychic protectors of the throne. I wont spoil the movie but you will understand it once you see the movie as the Dora Milaje make a choice. Im so glad it chose to demonstrate the power of African Warriorhood in such a magnificent way all the while allowing them to keep their beauty, grace, and femininity.
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