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September 10, 2013
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Women Warriors of Africa - Concept Drawing by Gambargin Women Warriors of Africa - Concept Drawing by Gambargin

This Drawing is Outdated - Please see the Updated version in the Gallery Folder of Women Warriors of Historically Wrong Sketch Series: Medieval Revisited

See:Mansamusoo Djire Aoua of Mandeka Kurufaba (Mali) by Gambargin and Nigiste Nigist Zala of Mangisa Abisinia (Ethiopia) by Gambargin

My first attempt at drawing African Women Warriors as a part of my Historically Wrong Sketch. Their attires were based on the stylized dress and armor used by the Ethiopian Kingdoms such as the Axum, Abyssinia as well as Makuria and also the ones used by the Western African superpowers, the Mali Empire. I tried incorporating a few elements of the armor used by the Europeans and Arabs, given that these two people would have had trades contact with their northern neighbors. Still, this may not be the most accurate depictions, but I'm open to correction from those that knows better :).

In my opinion, popular media often neglects the legacy of various African Kingdoms before the colonization period. Furthermore, their women warriors were often depicted in clothing which would be more appropriate for swimsuit calendar than the actual fighting itself, of course, this does not include the ones actually used during battle-rituals (where some of the African tribes uses very little clothing). Hence, after a discussion with my colleague, hopefully this drawing will bring the light to the African legacy.

Contrary to the (ignorant) popular belief that Africa is mostly inhabited by tribes of nomads and hunter-gatherers, it is actually home to some of the most influential and powerful civilization that the world had seen.

Let us take a look at the eastern Africa; If you were to read the history of Ancient Egypt, you would come across the Nubians, who at one time, conquered the Egyptians and became their Pharaohs. These people came from southern Nile region which incorporates modern day Egypt and Sudan. Another one to mention would be the Abyssinian (Modern day Ethiopia), who ruled a powerful Myaphysite Christian kingdom such as the Axum and Malkuria. It is actually worth the mention because they managed to defeat the Egyptian forces under the Rashidun Calipate in the battle of Dongola in 642, that halted their expansion towards southern region of Africa for a brief period.

If we go further to west, you will find one of the richest, greatest and powerful Empire of Mali in the high middle-ages. This great African power rose to its greatest height under The Great Mansa I Musa, who establish a scientific, political and commercial center in its capital Timbuktu, who is said to have attracted merchants, scholars and other intellectuals as far as Middle East and Asia. On the other hand, one must also take note of the other great empire such as the Kanem-Bornu and the legendary Kingdom of Hausa.

Meanwhile, historically speaking, the concept of Women Warriors in the history of Africa is actually very common. The Ancient Kingdom of Kush had queens who fought in battle called the "Kendake". Several of the nomadic tribes also practiced combat-ritual which includes women as the participant. If you were to look at the various history the many African kingdoms and empires, you will find that not only their women at some point occupied positions of power, they were also responsible for launching warfare, subjugating rival states and improving the socio-economic condition of their realm. If you really want to tickle your curiosity about african warrior women, please search "Dahomey Amazons".

If the Greeks had attributed the "Amazon" to the Iranians (Scythians), perhaps we should also attributed similar title to the Women of Africa :D


In this drawing, the first one on the right is Djire Kambine from the Njimi Empire, based on the Empire of Mali. The second one on the left, is Regent Zala Mangesa of Axum from the Kingdom of Maqurra, based on the Abyssinian Kingdoms of east Africa.

Djire Kambine is drawn with the stylized clothing worn by the nobility of Mali, with mail shirt underneath, whereas Zala Mangesa is depicted wearing a hauberk with Nubian headress and longbow. The mail or other types of metal armors would have been common in Africa, given the historical period, they would have obtain it from trades with the Greeks, Romans, Byzantine and Arabs.

Inspired by the music: Babaa Maal - Hunger (Sung in Fula Language by a Senegalese Artist - the song speaks about peace)…

Many thanks to :iconmistasilentkiller: and :iconbrandonspilcher: for the inspiration :)
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wraithsith Featured By Owner Edited Jun 16, 2014
When I speak of Africa to others- I always discuss the basic geographical-political lines: Sahara, Sahel, Sudan( the region not the state), Sub-Sudan, all the rest, and then the Kalahari.… . The link sums it up pretty decently.
Gambargin Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2014
That's good to know, thank you for sharing :)
wraithsith Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2014
Lemniskate Featured By Owner Apr 4, 2014
Did really everyone have chainmail in Africa-Europe-Asia?
Gambargin Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014
Yeap, and there are some archaeological evidence of theory proposed for it. For Africa, most of the case armors like chain-mail had to be imported from the European or the Arabs, which was tremendously expensive, and reserved only to the richest noble or warriors of those time. As for China and Japan, they did manufacture their own chainmail, a good example is the japanese chainmail called kusari. The method of productions may differ from each period and region, but generally speaking, chainmail could be obtained from the ever expanding trade from europe, africa and asia.

On the other hand, scale, padded and lamellar armors would be another alternative, if mail was too expensive or hard to obtain. At least, this is what i have read.
Lemniskate Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014
Is chainmail the best available armour, plate armour exluded? I.e., is it better than scales?
Gambargin Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2014
One armor has advantages over the other, it all depends on the area which they were used. It was one of the most commonly available armor in Europe and Oriental world for centuries until the arrival of plate armor. Chainmail is good to protect against slash attack, but thrust attack, not so much. Scales on the other hand, provided a decent protection for both, can be made from either metal or leather, easier to construct, but much less flexible than chainmail and harder to maintain.

It was rather expensive as well. I've read a typical Norman gear, with helm, sword, and chainmail, back then, had the cost equivalent to a decent 2 - 3 bedroom house today.
DeathlessLegends13 Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2013  Student Writer
I would really like to see more armor from the Ethiopian kingdoms, it's pretty awesome!
rutterkin1 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2013
Good job. If you continue with the African theme, I suggest Queen Nzinga of (what later became) Angola as a subject.
Gambargin Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2013
Ah yes, I've read about her! i would certainly dedicate a drawing for the Queen of Ovimbundu people. :D
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