In September 2022, Viola Davis powerfully brought the Female King of Dahomey, Queen Nanisca, to life on giant screens. In that epic docudrama, The Woman King, written by Dana Stevens, Gina Prince-Bythewood combines the energy and adventure of the 18/19th Century Amazonian soldiers, offering spectators an insight into the long-forgotten history of the Dahomey kingdom. Though the film is often criticized for embellishing the image of Queen Nanisca, the storyline was successfully done, highlighting the prowess of a female king whose story history wanted to silence.
And in February, this year, while we celebrate Black History Month, like Gina Prince-Bythewood, Jada Pinkett Smith offers us another breathtaking documentary. This time it’s a docuseries. In this four-episode (Netflix) series, she brings another adventure and the reign of a Female King and warrior to life. This time, it’s at the Central heart of Africa, around the lowland forest of Africa, in actual Angola. The name of the female King was Njinga (Adesuwa Oni).
Born in the 17th century, when the Portuguese were terrorizing the entire Atlantic Coasts of Africa, scavenging for slaves, Queen Njinga proved to be the answer to the problem menacing to destroy her kingdom. Like a cheetah, she affronted the invaders with her army, entering alliance even with her enemies to stop the deadly trade of the enslavers. So young, she learned the art of ruling from her father. So, equipped with years of listening to failed negotiations, she became hardened, affronting the enemy, sometimes with bargaining and conceding to their conditions at other moments. And when negotiation proves useless, she fights or retreats to fight another moment.
In this Netflix docuseries, the producer, Jada Pinkett, offers the audience a unique insight into the history of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. The merit of this beautifully filmed series is its combination of actions with interviews. In between different moments of the series, experts, historians, archivists, a woman Queen, etc., lend their voices to either analyze an action or supply spaces that the series couldn’t cover. The interviews are among what makes this series unique among its equals.
The series contains intrigues, betrayals, love, lust, wars, slavery, and heroic adventures. In this African Queens, the story of Queen Njinga is told from the point of view of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. This is a breath of fresh air, as all that is known about the kingdom is from the records of the Portuguese and the allies. And though there are instances of her failure, weaknesses, and even crime, the African Queens is like the lions telling the story of the hunt.