Okay, the filming of the Wakanda movie sequel has begun, with scenes being shot in Atlanta and Massachusetts, so far. The movie is scheduled to be out in theaters by July, 2022, and is still being written and directed by Ryan Coogler, who helmed the original movie. No, they have not announced the cast members yet, so we don’t know what actor will replace the late Chadwick Boseman’s leading Black Panther/King T’Challa role.
What we do know is that the exquisitely presented Dora Milaje, the all-female military unit in the movie, will again be present. Besides making a very deep impression on most original theater goers for the first film, the Dora Milaje is actually based on a real-life all-female military force that was, in fact, a mighty unit of fierce, loyal and disciplined warriors.
Once thought to be figments of legend and folklore, the Black Amazons of Dahomey, the first and only thus-far recorded all-female national military force, ruled the roost in West Africa between 1625-1894. They were only defeated finally by the invading French colonial army with its abundant supply of advanced firearms in the late 19th century.
Dahomey is now part of the modern African nation of Benin.
Of course, the moniker Black Amazons is a sobriquet given to the female military by Europeans, who saw them as a real-life version of the relentlessly dangerous female warriors of Greek mythology, who would take or sacrifice life without compunction if it were needed.
The Dahomean warriors called themselves the Ahosi, and sometimes the Mino, although the latter also means witch in the Beninese Fon language. Later researchers have also tagged them Hangbe’s panthers, based on the fact that Dahomean Queen Hangbe initially formed the force in the 17th century (Note: we must be careful of using European nomenclature like Kings and Queens in reciting elements of African history. The style, requirements and history of organizational principles of European government were completely different in Africa, even where it would seem that monarchs and rulers were the same. That is a continuing fallacy in African history against which we must remain vigilant.)
But by whatever name , they were known not to be trifled with, and the disciplined, fanatically loyal and indefatigable Dora Milaje of the original Black Panther movie very accurately portrayed what the Ahosi were, and how they conducted themselves.
According to tribal lore and other evidence collected, in over two hundred years, the women warriors rarely, if ever, lost a military engagement until their conquest by the French invaders. In Benin, remnants of the warrior clan still participate in public parades holding their banners high to show off their memorable history, and they still try to convince the Beninese authorities to include the history of their exploits in the contemporary public school curriculum. Teaching women and girls to stand up for themselves, and to claim their right to participate strongly in the development of Benin as a modern country, they take as a birthright.
Clearly, more should be written about them, and their story needs to be told more broadly. A good example of what needs to be done is the 2018 BBC special, “The Legend of Benin’s Fearless Female Warriors.”
Meanwhile, we’ll just enjoy a replica of them in the next Wakanda Forever film in 2022.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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