“The Woman King,” directed by Gina Prince Bythewood, tells us the story of an all-female military force that changed the course of history and brought glory to the kingdom of Dahomey. Written by Dana Stevens and Maria Bello, the narrative makes us privy to the irony of the situation. The Agojie was probably the most dangerous force to have ever existed, but they, too, were victims of a patriarchal society. They, too, had been oppressed at some point in their lives. “The Woman King” makes us privy to the fact that how society felt that being oppressed was an intrinsic part of being a woman. Nobody felt that there was anything wrong if a woman was beaten, abused, or disrespected in any other passive manner. Even the ones who were feared by all didn’t raise a finger against the regressive traditions and customs. The bigger problem was that women felt that they were meant to be bound and, in a way, became their own oppressors. So, let’s see how a woman, who was considered unworthy by her own kin, kindled a fire that had the potential to turn the system upside down and bring about a change in stagnant ideologies.
‘The Woman King’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Ghezo, a young and charismatic individual, became the King of the Dahomey empire, and unlike his predecessors, he wanted to bring about a change in the temperament of the people of his kingdom. The Oyo empire had always tried to oppress the Kingdom of Dahomey. For 90 years, the Dahomey empire adhered to the commands of the Oyo. Their villages were plundered, their men were killed, and their women were abused, but still, the Oyo wanted to exploit them more. The Dahomeys had started raising their voices against the oppression. They had realized that unless and until they had the courage to fight for their own cause, they wouldn’t be able to put an end to the tyranny.
The Oyo had found a new ally in the Mahi tribe. The Oyo started raiding Dahomey villages, and they sold the captives to European colonists. The European slavers played from both sides and somehow made the African kingdoms believe that in order to maintain peace and ensure their own safety, they needed to indulge in the slave trade. Ghezo wanted to put an end to slavery. He didn’t want to sell his own people to the shrewd Europeans. But he had to maintain the economy of his kingdom. He had to find a way to bring money in and provide for the people. He didn’t know what else he could trade. The Oyo Empire was spending a lot of resources in building its army. The Oyo Army had the latest weaponry. They had guns and horses, and Ghezo knew that he was in no state to wage war against them. The Dahomey empire might not have been as equipped as their enemy, but they had something that was as lethal and as dangerous as an ocean surge. Dahomey had an all-female special operations force named Agojie. The people of Dahomey had a lot of reverence for the Agojie. They were the saviors who risked their lives for the welfare of their kingdom. Nanisca was the leader of the Agojie, and she wanted to put an end to the atrocities that had been inflicted on innocent people by the Oyo Empire since time immemorial.
Nawi Becomes An Agojie
Nawi was a rebel who denied being abused and oppressed like every other girl in the kingdom. The girls were expected to serve their husbands. They were enslaved in their own homes. They were beaten and tortured, and it was expected that they would bear all this without uttering a word. Nawi was considered immoral and characterless just because she refused to be ill-treated by men who came to ask for her hand from her father. Nawi’s father gave her up to the King because he was fed up with her unruly attitude. Nawi had heard stories about the Agojie. She aspired to be a part of them one day. She didn’t know what sacrifices she would have to make in the process or what challenges she would have to face. When her father abandoned her, she started living her dream. She started her training to become an Agojie. Izogie, an accomplished fighter, was the first Agojie she had an interaction with. Izogie taught her little lessons that helped her become an adept fighter. Nawi eventually realized that almost every Agojie woman had a painful past. Some were trying to run away from it, and some were waiting for the opportunity to avenge their loss.
Nawi questioned the ways and means of the Agojie. She asked Nanisca why their male counterparts were allowed to keep wives and lead a normal life, whereas they were forced to live the life of a recluse. Nanisca knew that Nawi was a born fighter, but she also saw that she was not somebody who would obey orders if her conscience didn’t allow it. Nawi had a problem with authority. Finally, the day came when the aspirants had to showcase their skills in front of the King and pass the test. Nawi had worked day and night for it. She had put her heart and soul into her training. Nawi finally became victorious. She completed her task before anyone else. The King honored her by giving her a machete. Nanisca went to congratulate Nawi after the ceremonies were over. She was happy that she was proved wrong. She saw a great fighter in Nawi and knew that she was meant for greatness.
See More: How Different Is The Real History of Agojie In Comparison To The One Portrayed In ‘The Woman King’?
Naisca Has A Secret, And Nawi Is Taken Captive
When General Oba Ade came to Dahomey to collect the tribute, we realized that Nanisca knew him from before. It felt like the Agojie got reminded of her past traumas by looking at him. Long ago, the Oyo forces had taken Nanisca as a prisoner. Nanisca was abused and tortured in captivity. She was raped by multiple men, but somehow, she managed to survive. Nanisca realized that she was pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl. Nanisca made a cut on the back of her left arm, and then put a shark’s tooth inside the skin. After Nansica had gotten to know that Nawi was an orphan, she realized that she was her daughter. Nanisca told Nawi about it and checked her left arm, where she found the shark’s tooth. Nawi could digest the fact. She felt overwhelmed. Nawi had always looked up to Nanisca, and she dreamed of becoming like her one day. What she didn’t know was that her role model was her own mother.
Two European slavers had come to Dahomey, and Nawi had taken a liking to one of them named Malik. Even after Nanisca had strictly prohibited her from meeting any men, Nawi went to meet Malik after attending the ceremony of the blood oath. Malik told her that the Oyo had combined forces with other tribes and were planning to attack Dahomey. Nawi gave the information to Nanisca, who decided to take the Oyo by surprise and attack them before they reached their kingdom. The enemy forces were obliterated by the Agojie. Oba and his men couldn’t withstand the wrath of the all-female force, whose might they had greatly undermined. Though the Oyo retreated and, in a way, accepted their defeat, they took a lot of injured Agojie with them. Izogie and Nawi were among those who were taken captive by the Oyo.
‘The Woman King’ Ending Explained: Is Nanisca Able To Rescue Nawi?
Nanisca was made the Kpojito by the King. The King wanted to honor her for what she had achieved. The Oyo forces had been defeated, and Ghezo wanted to celebrate that. But Nanisca had something else going on in her mind. She wanted to go and find her daughter, Nawi. She wanted to rescue her and bring her back. Ghezo didn’t think that it was sensible to send his soldiers to die in enemy territory. He told Nanisca to be his reign mate and forget about those who had been taken as captives.
Meanwhile, Nawi, Izogie and others made a plan to escape from the clutches of the Oyo army. General Obe had put the female prisoners up for auction. The Europeans were willing to pay a huge sum for the women. Nawi’s escape plan failed terribly. Izogie lost her life while trying to save Nawi. Nawi would also have been killed if it hadn’t been for Malik. The man was in love with Nawi. His own mother belonged to the Dahomey empire, and he, too, felt connected with their cause. Malik bought Nawi from Obe and took her into his custody.
Nanisca decided to disobey the orders of the King. She decided to go and rescue her daughter. Amenza wanted to stop her, but Nanisca had made up her mind. Nanisca wanted to face her own demons. She had lived in denial for quite some time. She wanted to embrace her past because she was tired of running away from it. She knew that there was a possibility that she wouldn’t come out of enemy territory alive. Nanisca was ready to die on the battlefield, but she was not ready to live with regrets all her life. Nanisca left for Ouidah, and a lot of other Agojie and Migan soldiers followed her into battle. Meanwhile, Shante tried to take advantage of Nanisca’s absence. She had always disliked the female General. She had always felt insecure in her presence. Shante knew that her husband, the King, always favored Nanisca, as she had played a crucial role in making him King. She was disappointed when the King announced that Nanisca would be the Kpojito, i.e., the woman king, and she had expressed her grievances about the same. The feast, i.e., the official ceremony where Nanisca was going to be given the title publicly, couldn’t be postponed. So, it was decided that Shante would be made the woman king. The King knew that it was a suicide mission, and the chances of his General returning from the battle were very slim. But Nanisca did return. She brought back all the prisoners with her. Nanisca killed General Obe Ada and took her revenge. The mother and daughter were once again reunited. Though the King was still angry with her for not obeying his commands, he reinstated her to the position of “The Woman King.” Nanisca deserved to be a Kpojito. It was her ability to withstand adversity that had brought glory to the Dahomey kingdom.
‘The Woman King’ Mid-Credit Scene Explained
In the end credit scene, we saw that Amenza was performing a ritual and honoring the memories of the fierce fighters who had sacrificed their lives for their kingdom. Though Oyo had been defeated, Nanisca knew that there were a lot of other things that needed to be dealt with. There was a lot of enmity between the wives and Nanisca. She knew that Shante could influence the King. Shante was an aristocrat who had a superiority complex, and she believed that Nanisca was not worthy of holding such an important title. Maybe if there is a sequel, we will get to witness internal politics in the Dahomey kingdom. The egos of the European slavers could have been hurt after many of their men were killed by the Agojie. Maybe they would also come back to take revenge in the sequel. The mid credit scene was a reminder of the huge loss that the Agojie had to bear in order to protect their Kingdom. It was the dawn of a new era for the Dahomey kingdom, and they were on the path to becoming one of the most influential kingdoms in Africa.
“The Woman King” is a 2022 Period Drama film directed by Gina Prince Bythewood.