For thousands of years, all over Africa, women have ruled empires and kingdoms, in various capacities. The Black woman remains the pride of the Black continent to date. Although the world casts Africa in the light of a people who oppress women, history vindicates us all. Queen Hatshepsut is one of many women who have ruled prosperous empires in Africa.
When we talk about the most influential women in antiquity, the shrewd, devout and determined princess Maatkaré Hatshepsut Henemt-Imana, daughter of Queen Yahmesu, was one.
Egypt has always given women significant roles in governance, this is in accordance with Africa’s matriarchal tradition. This can be seen in Naré Mari’s reign when he merged the upper and lower Egypt. A woman was his Djati (Prime minister), she founded the pharaonic power as it stood for 3,000 years.
The Pharaoh’s wife who has the title Sovereign of Egypt was also often given the responsibility of managing the state’s affairs. In the first dynasty, it was only after 3 or 5 Pharaohs that a woman took over full authority of Egypt, in the name of Marynit, the first woman head of state in human history.
Septah Neith-iqereti (Nitocris) of the 6th dynasty and Sobek Neferu of the 12th dynasty will also assume full powers subsequently, but genuinely, the events that birthed the emergence of the 18th dynasty gave rise to the ascent of the most relevant queen in history.
The 18th dynasty was created when the Pharaoh Yahmesu Nebpehtyre led the critical liberation war against the foreign occupation of the foreign people called Hyksos who had occupied the dynasty for 200 years. However, telling of this victory will be incomplete without mentioning the roles of his Grand-mother, Tetisheri, his mother Ahkotpu, and his sister-wife, Yahmesu Neferet-Iry.
These women were honorable leaders and warlords, sovereigns who proved the worth of women’s place in the exercise of power. Following them are Akhotpu II, daughter of Yahmesu Neferet-Iry, and Yahmesu, daughter of Akhotpu II who were considered by the people as prominent queens. Hatshepsut, daughter of Yahmesu, was thus the heiress of these five prominent queens and had a special bond with the figure of her grand-mother, Yahmesu Neferet-Iry.
Hatshepsut was the only surviving child of Queen Yahmesu and Pharaoh Aakheperkaré Djehuty Mesu (Thutmose I). Her brothers Imana-Mesu, Madji-Mesu and her sister Neferukheb all died at a young age. Hatshepsut was initiated into the secrets of African spirituality by her nurse, Sat Ra. The name Hatshepsut means the first of the noble ladies, mistress of the initiated. Her second name Henemt Imana means one who unites with God.
Her talents were obvious as early as 8 years of age, she was gifted in poetry, religion, and engineering. At a very tender age, she had started leading religious processions, she even came up with the concept of creating an artificial pool to manage the Nile’s overflow. Her father, impressed by her talents, involved her in the kingdom’s management, going on political and religious missions with her. At the end of his life, with the permission of Queen Yahmesu, the King ruled with his daughter.
Hatshepsut had more rights to the crown than her father did because, although he was the son of a Pharaoh, he wasn’t a son of a Queen of Egypt, so her father crowned her and married her to his son Djehuty-Mesu Neferkhau, (Thutmose II), who was born to him by a secondary wife.
Having that Neferkhau was sick and overweight, Hatshepsut was given the right to handle sensitive kingdom matters. This would be her second time of the ruling, having ruled the first time with her father. She ruled this time for 12 to 15 years.
She bore a daughter from her marriage to her brother, and she was called Neferuré, who though enthusiastic, didn’t live long enough to become Queen.
At the demise of Pharaoh Neferkhau, his son Menkheperré Djehuty-Mesu the appointed heir of the throne was still too young, Hatshepsut was again vested with the power to rule, with the support of the clergy, the validity of her lineage and the will of her father who had crowned her, the priests crowned her head of state.
The Queen who took the name Maatkaré (Maat is the incarnation of the Ka of God), would soon be crowned Pharaoh after exhibiting two disputable acts.
Hatshepsut had her the myth of her divine birth engraved forever in the great temple of Deir el Bahari. In a nobly fabricated story, the divinity, Djehuty revealed to her mother Yahmesu that she would give birth to an outstanding King. The God, Imana, took the form of her Father, Aakheperkaré, and impregnated her mother. Thus, Hatshepsut is the direct child of God. This myth in many ways correlates with the story of the birth of Jesus.
In accordance with African tradition, where a woman bears the legitimacy of power, while her son exercises it, women who were allowed to reign, were not allowed to bear the title of Horus, the son of God and embodiment of power, just as men were not allowed to bear the title of Isis (Queen Mother).
Hatshepsut defied the custom, by taking on the title Horus and even epitomizing herself as a man in the engravings. Horut (female Horus), became one of her titles. This can be likened to Queen Nzinga of Angola who would present herself as a man.
From this perspective, it became expropriation of power, by having the support of the majority of the clergy, taking on these titles and being associated with divine birth, she put her son-in-law and nephew Menkheperré far from the throne and the pious queen enforced her irrefutable authority.
Egypt experienced peace and prosperity all through her 22 years of reign, as she didn’t have the dictatorial ambitions of some of the clergy and her nephew Menkheperré, though she led several victorious military campaigns, in Sudan especially. However, there are two major deeds that have placed Hatshepsut as the supreme female Pharaoh of all time.
“By the voice of my Mother Aminata, dressed in her starry adornment, my Father Imana has asked me to cleanse his sanctuary, Ipet Sout with the incense of the land of Punt which alone will animate the divine statue which rests majestically in the holy Saints of the Hut Ntjer”
It was with this passage that Maatkaré Hatshepsut was allowed to go on her famous pilgrimage to the core of Africa, as Aminata, the female side of the God, Imana had instructed her to bring alive his statue which was in Ipet Sout, in the Hut Ntjer (temple of God) by using the incense from the land of Punt. Her other objective was to tour and map the continent, Africa.
Centuries before the Queen, two Pharaohs, Sanhure and Sankhkara had traveled to Ta Ntjer (the land of God), where the Egyptians originated from. It’s been proven reasonably that Ta Ntjer is the Great Lakes and Southern Africa, from South Africa, Southern Sudan-Ethiopia through DR Congo, and Tanzania.
Jean Charles Coovi Gomez, a Beninese Egyptologist opines convincingly that Punt, a country in Ta Ntjer is present-day Uganda.
3,000 people were appointed for the layout of the journey, 30 left from Egypt. The exploration was led by a Sudanese. After crossing the Red Sea, and flanking the East African coast, the five ships arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and then took another turn to Uganda. It was a successful trip, and the Queen considered it as one of the most interesting times of her life. She returned with plants, cattle, monkeys, dogs, panthers, aromatic resins, gold incense and lots more.
Furthermore, the Djeser Djeseru meaning (magnificent of the magnificent) is an outstanding architectural masterpiece, linked to the Queen. The temple dedicated to God and deities Inpu (Anubis) and Hut Horu (Hathor) lies in a place presently called Der el Bahari in Arabic.
The building which is partly cut in a rock, has 3 successive terraces, linked by gently sloping stairs, a succession of sphinxes, engravings and statutes. It has a long walkway of 800m from the landing place on the Nile to the entrance of the building. It was built by the queen’s favorite official, Sen N Mut, a multidisciplinary scientist of exceptional brilliance. He adorned one of the terraces with incense and plants brought from Punt.
The final years of the Queen’s reign have Menkheperré, seriously vying for the throne as he had a section of the clergy on his side. Both royals had to be presented with the crown, nephew standing a few meters behind aunt.
When she died, she was given a well deserving funeral, but a few years later, every work that represented her as Horus was either destroyed or stalled in other to correct a violation of the sacred custom.
In all, she earned the place of the most relevant woman in the history of antiquity and the most powerful black woman in history.