Yennega, an emblematic figure in Burkina Faso, was the mother of Ouedraogo, the founder of the dynasties of the Moose chieftains. She is thought to have lived between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A legendary figure in West Africa, Yennega is the epitome of the female warrior, a free and independently minded woman.

Pedagogical Unit


The female warrior, free woman and cultural icon


Often portrayed on horseback, controlling her steed with a firm hand, Yennega is a cultural icon in Burkina Faso, West Africa and even further afield. She exemplifies resistance, strength of character and independence of mind. She therefore projects a powerful and positive image for women fighting to win acknowledgement of their aspirations.

A woman from Burkina Faso. Photograph by Eric Montfort, 2012.

her father’s refusal to find her a husband. She unites with a foreigner, thus displaying great independence of mind and a resolute determination to pursue her own aspirations. As a result of her free and positive actions, she gives birth to a son, Ouedraogo, the first in a new line of chieftains.Yennega’s actions changed the course of history by breaking radically with the age-old chiefdom model. Her spectacular actions led to the rise of the first Moaga chieftain, a key personage in the history of the Moose.

A cultural icon and a source of inspiration

Moreover, Yennega has become an icon for international NGOs, sporting associations (e.g. Faso-Yennenga, Ouagadougou) and major cultural institutions named after her. For example, the Ouagadougou Pan-African Cinema Festival (FESPACO) awards a trophy known as the Yennega Gold Stallion. The trophy features a female warrior on horseback, brandishing a spear, thus identifying Yennega as a cultural icon of Pan-African identity.

Poster of the 2011 edition of the FESPACO.

To this day, Yennega’s story is transmitted through oral tradition in the form of origin folktales, dynastic stories and so on, children’s books, plays such as Naba Ouédraogo (Kolin Noaga, 1979) and films (see Resources).

Yennega, the horsewoman and warrior chieftain

Yennega is portrayed in oral tradition as a horsewoman without equal and a fearless chieftain. She stands as proof that women can perform high-level military roles in some African societies.

In the lore of those victorious chiefdoms, spearheaded by cavalry, Yennega is indeed depicted as one of the pillars of her father’s army. She commanded men and led her troops to victory.

Statue of Yennega, Burkina Faso. Photograph by Brenda Gael McSweeney, 2009.