The Female King of Colonial Nigeria

The Female King of Colonial Nigeria

Ahebi Ugbabe
Nwando Achebe
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/21/2011
Format: Paperback 29 b&w illus., 12 maps, 9 music exx., 5 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-22248-0
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Winner, 2012 Gita Chaudhuri Prize (The Western Association of Women Historians)Winner, 2012 Barbara "Penny" Kanner Prize (Western Association of Women Historians)Winner, 2013 Aidoo-Snyder Book Award, African Studies Association Women’s Caucus

Nwando Achebe presents the fascinating history of an Igbo woman, Ahebi Ugbabe, who became king in colonial Nigeria. Ugbabe was exiled from Igboland, became a prostitute, traveled widely, and learned to speak many languages. She became a close companion of Nigerian Igala kings and the British officers who supported her claim to the office of headman, warrant chief, and later, king. In this unique biography, Achebe traces the roots of Ugbabe's rise to fame and fortune. While providing critical perspectives on women, gender, sex and sexuality, and the colonial encounter, she also considers how it was possible for this woman to take on the office and responsibilities of a traditionally male role.

Author Bio

Nwando Achebe is Professor of History at Michigan State University. She is author of Farmers, Traders, Warriors, and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900–1960.


“An important contribution to the study of modern African history. It will be of special interest to scholars of African history, women's studies, and comparative politics.”
 — Anene Ejikeme, Trinity University

“This important, but neglected, story of Nigeria’s only female warrant chief is thoroughly grounded in local meanings and local categories, yet speaks to some of the most important concerns in comparative women’s history: from slavery and freedom, to sexuality, power, and spirituality.”
 — Jean Allman, Washington University of St. Louis

“An unusual biography and a compelling tale about the life of an extraordinary woman.”
 — Stephan F. Miescher, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Table of Contents

Ekene / Acknowledgments

Nkwado / The Preparation: All Trees Grow in the Forest, but the Ora Singled Itself Out
Nkowa / The Introduction: Unspoken, Blame the Mouth; Unheard, Blame the Ear
1. Oge Nwatakili: The Time of Childhood, ca. 1880<N>1895
2. Mgbakpu Ahebi: Exile in Igalaland, ca. 1895<N>1916
3. Performing Masculinities: Homecoming--and She Becomes a Man, ca. 1916<N>1948
4. Inside King Ahebi's Palace, ca. 1916<N>1948
5. Mastering Masculinities: Ekpe Ahebi Masquerade--the Final Insult, ca. 1931<N>1948
Mmechi / The Conclusion: Ahebi Today--the Works That We Do Are the Things by Which We Are Remembered

Appendix: Select Criminal and Civil Cases in Nsukka Division, 1921<N>1935
Glossary of Enugu-Ezike Chronological Terms
Glossary of Igbo, Igala, and Akpoto Words

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