Less than two years after playing Dora Milaje warrior woman Nakia, in the box-office hit Black Panther, Oscar-winning actor, writer and producer Lupita Nyong’o presents a fascinating Channel 4 documentary which sees her journey across Benin, West Africa to uncover the remarkable ‘Agoji’, an army of African female fighters who were not just a Marvel fantasy but actually existed.
Acting on the rest of the world’s curiosity about the remarkable but little known female army, Lupita goes in search of the warrior women, who grouped in armies of up to 4,000 strong, and fought African and European powers alike from the 17th to the 19th centuries in the Kingdom of Dahomey (modern day Benin).
Shaminder Nahal Commissioning Editor at Channel 4, said: “Lupita Nyong’o’s investigation into the real story of the all-female army is thrilling, haunting and emotional. It’s amazing the true story of these kick-ass female fighters isn’t more widely known – and in telling it, the film challenges dominant narratives about race, women and power. With some surprises along the way.”
In an interview with Stylist, Lupita spoke about why it was important for her to take on this documentary. She said: “I’ve never done anything like this, but I said yes before I even knew how it would be possible. I am tired of hearing about African history from someone else. Doing this was a recommitment to learn about my people and to recognise how important it is to preserve your understanding of yourself and your lineage in order to keep your life in context. That’s transformative.”
In a world that often skims over the contributions and presence of women throughout history, and even when they are present, their contributions watered down and fetishized, this programme makes a powerful statement about the importance of telling stories authentically.
Warrior Women with Lupita Nyong’o (Channel 4, 10pm Wednesday 23 October 2019)