‘THE FEMALE KING OF COLONIAL NIGERIA’ – A REVIEW

IMAGE: THEHISTORYVILLE. COM

Dr. Nwando Achebe is a professor of History at the Michigan State University. She served as a Ford Foundation and Fulbright-Hays Scholar-in-Residence.

 The Female King of Colonial Nigeria was submitted as part of her doctoral thesis. It is the result of cumbersome piecing together and constructing the life of an extraordinary woman, out of scattered vignettes and scanty documents. In it she details the life and times of Ahebi Ugbabe. The only female warrant chief and king in colonial Nigeria. She offers her readers a sharp, scholarly assessment of women, gender, sex, sexuality and the colonial encounter. 

Unlike other texts, Dr. Achebe’s biography of Ahebi Ugbabe seeks to encourage new ways of seeing, reading and interpreting African worlds beyond received categories of analysis. She challenges the notion of homogeneity with regards to masculinity. She posits, convincingly so, that there exists a multiplicity of African female masculinities such a female husband and a female king. She encourages her readers, as Judith Halberstam did years before her, to reimagine masculinity without men. 

In addition, she details the challenges of conducting field research on a topic as engaging as this. She recalls the conundrum of an audience that is skeptical of her, custodians of oral literature whose memories wane with time and the tedious task of scouring through endless documents. 

Most importantly, she has told the African story from an African perspective. In her words;

People who have been lucky enough not to have had their stories told by others without respect might not fully understand nor appreciate the gift of being able to tell one’s story on one’s own terms. I come from a world where our story has been told almost exclusively by others. Therefore, in my own writing, I have worked to privilege the indigenous point of view so that in the final analysis, the people who entrusted me with their histories and lives can see themselves emerge within the text.”

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