Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis will be starring in The Woman King – “a powerful true story of an extraordinary mother-daughter relationship”.
Davis will play Nanisca, general of the all-woman army and Nyong’o will play Nawi, Nanisca’s daughter. Together, the dynamic duo battles the French and near-by tribes who threaten the Amazon’s livelihood and glory through enslavement and violence.
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TriStar Pictures attained the rights to the movie based on a story by Maria Bello and Cathy Schulman. The film will be produced by JuVee Productions, owned by Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennon, Bello’s Jack Blue Productions and Schulman’s Welle Entertainment. Tennon confirmed the project by stating that the movie “has the potential to be a game-changer for women of color everywhere.”
The Dahomey Warriors were traditionally called the N’Nonmiton, which means “our mothers” in Fon, the language of the Fon people of Dahomey, now in present-day Benin. Some European historians and observers called them the Dahomey Amazons as they reminded them of the mystical and powerful all women’s army called Amazons in Greek mythology.
The women warriors were known to be especially skillful, competitive, and brave. Their drills and military parades were always performed to dancing, music, and songs and their weapons were sometimes used as choreographic props. As expressed in their songs, their goal was to outshine men in every respect, and European travelers observed that they were better organized, swifter, and much braver than male soldiers. As such, the King would send them to war as opposed to their male counterparts and European soldiers would also hesitate to kill them as they were often young women.
The Dahomey also enjoyed privileged relations with the king, swearing to celibacy and living in the royal palace, which only the king and his entourage had access to. As a testament to their power, women servants rang little bells to warn the people of the women soldiers’ presence and inhabitants were required to move aside, bow and avert their eyes.
The Amazon women’s army only became defunct when the Dahomey kingdom fell at the end of the 19th century. According to UNESCO, after two months of fighting and previously broken accords between the French and Dahomey, the king of Dahomey took flight and set fire to most of the royal palaces, marking an end of the Kingdom of Dahomey and its army of women in 1892.