Posted February 28, 2018 by GP Manalo in Movies/TV

The Cultural Influences of Marvel’s Black Panther

5.The Dora Milaje in our History

 Wakanda5Led by Danai Gurira’s Okoye, the Dora Milaje are a fierce group of women who are the royal guards and the last defense of Wakanda. In terms of the origins of an all-african female group, Smithsonian traced the origins of such a group in the mid-1700s on the small western African state of Dahomey. In their tongue (Fon) these group of women were called “N’Nonmiton” which means “our mothers”, Foreigners have famously called them as The Dahomey Amazons. Once dubbed “Black Sparta”, Dahomey prided a militaristic society in which these warriors are hardened since birth and fought “with extreme valor”. Only the strongest and most courageous women were recruited.

In theory, the earliest record of these women in history were being elephant huntresses known as the gbeto. It was an account by a French naval surgeon named Repin who reported in the 1850s that he saw a group of 20 gbeto women ambush a herd of 40 elephants, leaving 3 of their women dead in the attack. It was Fon King Gezo that noticed their courage and perseverance that he drafted these women into his army. However, Stanley Alpern’s study have suggested that there was no proof of that claim and would rather suggest that the earliest record of their origins were in 1720 as palace guards.

 Of all the militarized women groups, what makes them different from the others is that they were the only ones who would fight and die for king and country. The Dahomey were a warring nation who actively participated in the slave trade, in which they had captured and sold their enemies to the slavers. These women were untouchable, it was said that touching them means death by a swift decapitation (or getting pinned on a desk with a spear as Okoye remarked to Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross). As they were members of the Dahomeys they have sworn an oath to celibacy, abstaining from any relationships and sexual relations Based on SmithsonianMag’s research however, though they are formally married to the king, despite not having any relations to them the marriage rendered them celibate. They would be armed with clubs, muskets, machetes, or razors. Then they would learn survival skills, discipline, hand-to-hand combat, and mercilessness. Part of their training and customs were to return home with the heads of their opponents and that they were even told to never let any wound stop you from doing their duty. 

 For over 2 centuries they have striked fear in the hearts of their enemies in their land, they have conquered kingdoms and captured fortresses. At the height of their power the 1860s where their numbers grew from hundreds to 6000. At the close of the 1800s their final battles were against the french armies in the frontlines. Though they have fought valiantly they were however no match for their modernized weapons. Thousands become Tens in 23 different battles through 7 weeks. Leaving the king no choice but to make a treaty with the french. Records have said that the last of the Dahomey Amazons named Nawi have fled in 1979 ageing over 100 years.


GP Manalo

G.P. Manalo is a student by day, and a resident tortured writer by night. Writing to keep him sane from all the Business School papers and presentations piling up each week.