Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis Fight Colonization of Africa in ‘The Woman King’

By Sameer Rao Mar 02, 2018

Lupita Nyong’o ("Black Panther") and Viola Davis ("Fences") will take their Academy Award-winning talents to a new historical drama film about an overlooked group of women who defended a West African kingdom from French colonization. 

Deadline reported yesterday (March 1) that the actresses will star in "The Woman King." The movie draws from the true story of an all-female military unit in the Kingdom of Dahomey. According to the Ouidah Museum of History in Benin, which includes the kingdom’s former land within its borders, Dahomey was one of the most powerful independent states in West Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries.

In "Amazons of Black Sparta: The Women Warriors of Dahomey”—one of the only English-language works about the so-called "Amazons"—author Stanley B. Alpern wrote that the soldiers defended Dahomey from the French, who sought to colonize the kingdom and enslave its citizens. The French eventually conquered Dahomey in 1894, with Alpern recounting that the Amazons were the last Dahomean troops to surrender. 

Davis will portray Nansica, a Dahomean general, and Nyong’o will play her daughter, Nawi. Alpern references both women as actual soldiers who fought against the French military during the late 1800s. 

Davis will also produce the film with husband Julius Tennon ("Custody") via their company JuVee Productions.