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  The Legend of Yennenga Stallion



The story dates back to the beginning of the 12th century in the Mossi's Dagomba Kingdom - corresponding to the northern part of modern Ghana. Its capital was Gambaga. The King of Dagomba was called Nedega. Dagomba was a wealthy state and naturally its prosperity attracted the attention of neighbouring people. especially Malinkes, who lived further south. Nedega's soldiers were brave and almost always won in any show of force. The King's daughter, Yannenga, always helped him win the battles.

Yennenga was a beautiful young woman. Everyone loved her. She was also an extraordinary horse-woman. She rode horses much better than her brothers, and even better than the kingdom's warriors. She was also a brave warrior, adept at using javelins, spears and bows.


You see father, you are letting me rot like the wheat in the field.  

Yennenga was so precious to her people that her father refused to let her marry - a decision which made Yennenga sad. She felt she could not complain to her father directly. So she planted a field with wheat. In a few months, the crop grew but Yennenga let it rot. She would not harvest it. Her father was very surprised and asked her for an explanation. "You see father", she said, "you are letting me rot like the wheat in this field". King Nedega was very upset and ordered that she be locked up.

But Yennenga had friends among the King's guards. One night, one of the king's horsemen helped her escape from the prison. Both rode long into the night and were later attacked by Malinkes warriors. Yennenga and her benefactor routed their attackers but the horseman paid for the victory with his life. Yennenga was now alone in the middle of the forest, far, far away from Gambaga.

Bravely she decided to ride further north. At one point in the journey she had to cross a river. Braving strong currents she and her horse managed to negotiate the river. She was exhausted from the effort and lay on the back of her horse when she saw a house. It belonged to Riale, a famous elephant hunter. Riale fell in love with Yennenga straight away. In time they had a son who came to be called Ouedraogo (male horse), a name used quite commonly by the Burkinabe now. It is shared by one of Burkina Faso's most celebrated film makers, Idrissa Ouedraogo, who won the Yennenga prize in 1991 with a film called "Tilai".

Yennenga is also known as the mother of the Mossi people. Today in Ouagadougou where the current king of the Mossis lives, one can see Yennenga's statues at many places. A square and an avenue are also named after the lady warrior.