“The Mother of the Mossi” is the title given to the woman I am presenting today. She was beautiful, strong, a warrior, a wife, a mother, and a matriarch. Naba Nedega was the ruler of the Dagomba Kingdom, which is modern-day Ghana, between the 11th and 15th centuries. A number of scholars believe he ruled in the 12th century. Naba Nedega had a daughter named Yennenga. Yennega was a tall and beautiful girl who loved to ride horses. This dynamic was odd in the Dagomba Kingdom because horse riding was reserved for the men. In addition to riding horses, she mastered the javelin, spear, and bow and arrow, and used those skills to become a master hunter. Being tall, smart, slender, agile, and a skilled hunter, made her father recruit her for his army. Within her father’s army, Yennenga developed the reputation of being an excellent warrior who other armies feared. Her athleticism and tact allowed her to become the leader of her own regiment. She was known for leading her regiment into battle and coming out victorious.
As time passed and Yennenga grew older, her father wanted her to forgo marriage and remain in his army. Sources say that Yennenga did enjoy being in her father’s army, but she also longed for love and a family. Because of uncertain circumstances, Yennenga left her home and ventured into the forest of what is present-day Burkina Faso. There are many stories telling why Yennenga left her home, one story says she asked her father if she could become a wife and start a family, her father refused, she was saddened by his answer and fled her home. Another story says, she was walking in her village one day, saw a mother feeding her child, and realized she wanted to be more than a part of her father’s army.
While lost in the forest of Bitou Yennenga came upon a young elephant hunter named Riale from Mali. Riale and Yennenga became acquainted with each other and eventually fell in love. The two would produce a son named Ouedraogo. When Ouedraogo was a young boy, Yennenga sent Ouedraogo to Dagomba to meet his grandfather Naba Nedega. When Naba Nedega meets Ouedraogo he was immediately overjoyed because he searched for his daughter for years and was happy she was alive. Naba Nedega arranged a feist inviting Yennenga, Riale, and Ouedraogo to attend. Once and for all, Naba Nedega’s family was reunited. Ouedraogo would learn to become a ruler and warrior from his grandfather. Ouedraogo was said to be as skilled as his mother in riding a horse, using the spear, javelin, and bow and arrow. When Ouedraogo became of age, he moved to Bitou and eventually established the Mossi Kingdom. Now you know why Yennenga is the “Mother of the Mossi” and why she is revered by the Mossi. To Yennega, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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