Princess Yennenga: The Brave Warrior and Mother of the Mossi Tribe in Burkina Faso


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In the West African country of Burkina Faso, there is a legendary figure whose story has been passed down through generations.

Her name is Princess Yennenga, and she is known as the Horse-Riding Warrior. Yennenga is a symbol of strength, courage, and resilience for the people of Burkina Faso, and her story is an inspiration to women all over the world.

Princess Yennenga was a legendary figure in West Africa, known as the mother of the Mossi people (the largest tribe in Burkina Faso).

Who was Princess Yennenga?

Princess Yennenga was born in the 12th century in the kingdom of Gambaga, a region located in the northern territory of what is now known as the Republic of Ghana.

As the daughter of the king of Gambaga, Yennenga was raised in a royal household and was expected to conform to the societal norms of the time.

However, Princess Yennenga was a trailblazer who defied gender expectations and forged her own path, ultimately leaving a lasting legacy in West African history.

From a young age, Princess Yennenga showed exceptional bravery and skill in combat, wielding javelins, spears, and bows, and displaying a remarkable talent for horse riding.

Yennenga’s father recognized her abilities and trained her alongside his best warriors. At the age of 14, Yennenga fought in battles against the neighboring Malinkés, demonstrating her prowess as a warrior.

However, despite her strength and courage, Yennenga faced a major obstacle to her happiness when she reached the age of marriage.

King Nedega, who loved his daughter dearly, was reluctant to let her marry and leave his side. Yennenga’s father’s decision left her feeling unhappy and frustrated, and she decided to plant a field of wheat to express her dissatisfaction.

When the crop grew, she let it rot and explained to her father that it was how she felt about not being able to marry.

But even that wasn’t enough to change her father’s mind. Instead, he locked her up in the hope that time in solitary confinement would make her see reason.

However, Princess Yennenga had friends among the king’s guards, and with their help, she escaped disguised as a man, with a horseman who worked for her father.

Unfortunately, their escape was not as smooth as they had hoped it would be, as an attack by the Malinkes left her companion dead, and Princess Yennenga was alone with her horse. It was during her flight that she met and fell in love with a young elephant hunter named Rialé.

However, her father disapproved of their relationship and refused to let them marry. Undeterred, Yennenga decided to leave her father’s kingdom and start a new life with Riale.

Together, Yennenga and Riale founded the city of Wagadogo, which later became the capital of the Mossi Kingdom. They also founded the royal dynasty that would rule over the Mossi people for centuries to come.

The two became inseparable and had a child whom they named Ouedraogo, meaning “male horse” in honor of the horse that had led Yennenga to Rialé.

Upon reaching adulthood, Ouedraogo left his parents’ home and traveled north, where he founded the kingdom of Tenkodogo, which is considered to be the cradle of the Mossi Kingdoms.

According to historians, Ouedraogo visited his grandfather, King Nedega, who had been searching for his daughter all these years.

Upon discovering that his daughter was alive, he sent a delegation to request Yennenga to come back home.

Together with Rialé, Yennenga was welcomed by her father with a feast. King Nedega, who was desperate to make amends with his daughter, promised to oversee the training of his grandson, gave him a cavalry, cattle, and other goods, which he used to set up his kingdom.

Princess Yennenga Legacy

Princess Yennenga legacy is still felt in Burkina Faso today. She is revered as a symbol of strength, courage, and resilience, and her story is often used to inspire young girls and women.

The Mossi people have even named a day after her, called Yennenga Day, which is celebrated every year on March 4th.

Also read: Queen Amina, the Great Warrior of Zazzau

Yennenga’s story is also celebrated through traditional Mossi music and dance. One of the most famous Mossi dances is called the Yennenga Dance, which is performed in honor of the Horse-Riding Warrior.

Princess Yennenga story has also been the subject of films, books, and other works of art. In 2019, the Burkinabe director Apolline Traoré released a film called “Desrances,” which tells the story of a young woman who is inspired by Yennenga’s bravery to become a warrior herself.

Statues of Princess Yennenga have been erected in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso, and the Burkinabe national football team is named Les Étalons (The Stallions) after her famous horse.

The Étalon de Yennenga (Stallion of Yennenga), a golden stallion statue named after the legendary princess, is awarded as the first prize in the biennial Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou.

The Importance of Princess Yennenga Story

Princess Yennenga story is important for several reasons. First and foremost, it highlights the important role that women have played in African history.

Despite the fact that women have often been marginalized and oppressed in many African societies, there have always been women who have defied societal norms and become leaders, warriors, and heroines. Yennenga is just one example of this.

Yennenga’s story also shows the importance of perseverance and determination. Despite facing obstacles and opposition from her father, Yennenga was determined to follow her dreams and make a new life for herself.

She was able to do this by relying on her own skills and abilities, and by forging a partnership with Riale based on mutual respect and love.

Finally, Yennenga’s story is a reminder of the power of love and the importance of relationships. Yennenga’s love for Riale was so strong that she was willing to leave her father’s kingdom and start a new life with him.

Together, they were able to build the Mossi tribe, which is recognized as the largest tribe in Burkina Faso, a new dynasty that would have a lasting impact on the history of Burkina Faso.

Mossi tribe

The Mossi people are a proud and diverse ethnic group that has long played a central role in the history and culture of Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa.

With a population of over 6.2 million people, the Mossi constitute the largest ethnic group in the country, representing over 40% of its total population.

The Mossi people are primarily concentrated in the Volta River basin, where they have lived for centuries.

They have a rich and complex cultural heritage that is expressed through their traditions, art, music, and language.

The Mossi have a strong sense of identity and pride in their heritage, which has helped them to maintain their distinct cultural traditions despite the challenges of modernization and globalization.

While the Mossi people are the largest ethnic group in Burkina Faso, they are by no means the only group that calls this country home.

Burkina Faso is a diverse country with over 60 different ethnic groups, each with their own unique customs, languages, and traditions. Some of the other major ethnic groups in Burkina Faso include the Gurunsi, Senufo, Lobi, Bobo, and Fulani.

Despite their diversity, the people of Burkina Faso share a strong sense of national identity and pride in their country.

They have a rich and vibrant cultural heritage that is expressed through music, dance, and art, as well as through their traditions and way of life.

The Mossi people, in particular, have made significant contributions to the development and progress of Burkina Faso, both in the past and present.

They have a long and storied history that has been shaped by their interactions with neighboring peoples and empires, including the Malinké, Songhai, and Mossi empires.

Today, the Mossi people continue to play a leading role in Burkina Faso’s economy, politics, and culture.

They are renowned for their agricultural skills, which have helped to sustain their communities and provide food for the nation. They are also active participants in the country’s political process, with many Mossi politicians holding key positions in government.

In terms of language, the Mossi speak the Mòoré language, which is also spoken by several other ethnic groups in Burkina Faso.

Mòoré is a tonal language that is widely spoken throughout the country, and it has its own unique alphabet and writing system.

The language is an important part of Mossi culture and identity, and it is taught in schools and used in government and media communications.


Princess Yennenga is a legendary figure in Burkina Faso, and her story has inspired generations of people in West Africa and beyond.

As a horse-riding warrior and a symbol of strength and courage, Yennenga represents the power of women to defy societal norms and become leaders and heroines.

Her story is a testament to the importance of perseverance and determination, as well as the power of love and relationships.

Her courage and determination to follow her heart and forge her own path in life have made her a legendary figure in Burkina Faso and beyond.

Her legacy lives on in the Mossi people, who still honor her as their mother and in the many tributes and monuments built in her honor throughout the country.

Indeed, her story also serves as an inspiration to women all over the world to pursue their dreams and passions, even in the face of opposition and adversity.

It is also a reminder that women have always been an integral part of history, contributing to the development and progress of societies in countless ways.

Yennenga’s legacy lives on in Burkina Faso today.


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