Burkinabe women are channeling the spirit of a 12th century princess

Burkinabe women working in careers traditionally dominated by men, all draw inspiration and courage from one source: Princess Yennenga.

The story of Princess Yennenga is unfamiliar to the rest of the world, but between Burkinabes, especially women, it is a well-known tale.

Yennenga was an African princess who lived over 900 years ago. She was known for her horse-riding skills, strong spirit, and her bravery on the battlefield. Today, she is considered to be the mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso and is a cultural icon admired by Burkinabe's.

Yennenga has a strong legacy. There are statues of her, roads named after her, and an African film award, which is known as the Yennenga Gold Stallion, and a film called Tilai, which is loosely based on her life.

In this short documentary, Burkina, All About Women, director Nicole Mackinlay Hahn, pays homage to the warrior princess and the women who admire her and channel her bravery into their daily lives. The short features a series of intimate portraits of a group of Burkinabe women– including a fire fighter, a rapper, a PhD in astrophysics candidate, a mechanic, a national swimming champion and a mushroom biologist. 

Mackinlay Hahn rose to directorial fame after she shot a series of videos for U2.

Attempts to portray women as strong often rely on the motherly trope or on the idea that women are tough enough to “roll with the boys”. But Mackinlay Hahn uses this documentary short to challenge these misconceptions and show that women are strong just as they are.

“I sought to undo stereotypes of African women and their inaccurate representation in the media, by simply revealing and acknowledging the professional lives of women in Burkina Faso,” Mackinlay Hahn told Nowness. “Inspired by the legendary Princess Yennenga, they give voice to their own unique experiences.” 

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