The Woman King (2022) movie ending, explained: ‘The Woman King’ is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and stars Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch, Thuso Mbedu, John Boyega, Sheila Atim and Jordan Bolger. As a fictional retelling of the history of the Agojie clan of West African warriors, it’s only fitting that such a story also happens to be an extremely rare example of a big-budget Hollywood production that women lead in front and behind the camera. For this reason, the film feels like a transitional work for Hollywood’s shift to making such films and is therefore framed within the extremely time-tested framework of an action/historical film whose every move can be told to a kilometer away. Yet not even for a moment is “The Woman King” a boring experience, instead of being hugely entertaining commercial fare that delves into Dahomey culture while engaging in the history of the slave trade. slaves in the Atlantic.
The Woman King (2022) Plot Synopsis
Dahomey is a West African empire, a tributary state of the Oyo Empire with which they are in conflict. The Oyo is a larger empire, with various other tribes and kingdoms as allies. They have greater military power due to the possession of horses and guns. This is because they freely engaged in the slave trade with Europeans, selling their own people and captives for these benefits. When “The Woman King” begins, the Oyo control Ouidha, a port city which is actually in Dahomey territory but which they have taken over, strengthening their power by strengthening their trade network.
Dahomey recently gained a new young king, Ghezo. Under his command is an elite battalion of female soldiers, the Agojie, feared across the country for their ferocity in battle. The Agojie live without interference in their own palace, take no lovers, and have no marital ties, instead devoting their lives to battle and service to their monarch, which in turn gives them respect and even a a say in the administration of their monarch, a privilege that women across the rest of the continent cannot dream of. The status of women in Dahomey society, however, is hardly so progressive. Dahomey once indiscriminately engaged in the slave trade, but now, under Ghezo, it does so in a relatively controlled fashion in that it only sells its prisoners of war to slave traders.
Nanisca is the general of the Agojie under the reign of King Ghezo. Among her soldiers, she is a legend due to her past in which she was left for dead after being captured as a soldier but managed to heroically escape. Following the release of some Dahomey captives, she confronts Ghezo about the immorality of the Atlantic slave trade. Ghezo is sympathetic, mainly because his brother sold his mother into slavery. Yet, given how rich and powerful the other kingdoms have become, he sees no alternative. Nanisca provides him with one in the form of palm oil, which they produce in abundance and export, which can ensure their economic prosperity instead of slavery.
Nanisca is also engaged in training new Agojie recruits, made up of young girls given to them because they are unruly or deemed undesirable. One of these girls is Nawi, whose adoptive father gives her to the Agojie to free himself from her after she refuses to marry and lead a life of submission.
Santo Ferreira, a Portuguese slave trader, arrives in Ouidha as an ally of the Oyo. His friend and companion, Malik, is half-Dahomean and half-white, and he accompanied Santo because his mother’s last wish was for her son to see his homeland and its people. Oyo’s general, Oba Ade, is a ruthless man who freely engages in the slave trade and eagerly seeks to expand the Oyo empire.
The custom which maintains peace between Oyo and Dahomey is that the latter offers a heavy annual tribute to the former. Given the involvement of the Oyo in the Mahi tribe’s raid on a village in Dahomey and the subsequent taking of captives, the tribute paid to the Oyo in the year the film was made is diminished. Oba Ade asks for twenty Agojie warriors to make up the shortfall and prevent a conflict, eventually settling for ten. When the returned Agojies arrive in Ouidha with Nanisca at their head, she refuses to let her soldiers be taken as slaves and prostituted by the Oyo and Europeans. A fight breaks out between her and Oba Ade. Nawi steps in to save her, and the two manage to escape. This is enough of an offense for the Oyo to declare war on Dahomey.
What is the link between Nanisca and Oba Ade?
One night, Nanisca confides in Amenza that she has premonitory dreams about her future. Amenza uses a method of fortune-telling to inform her that it is an enemy from Nanisca’s past who will interfere with her return. At the time, she dismisses it as gimmicks and nonsense. Soon, the Oyo delegation led by Oba Ade arrived in Dahomey to pay their annual tribute. The sight of him causes Nanisca to recall her traumatic past with him. When she was young and had been captured by the Oyo, she was raped every night by their soldiers, one of whom was Oba Ade. Now they are both generals in their respective realms, but he doesn’t remember her as she clearly does. This experience also informs his principle that the Agojie should commit suicide instead of allowing themselves to become slaves if captured.
Who is Nawi’s biological mother?
In the past, when Nanisca arrived in Dahomey after her valiant escape from her captivity under the Oyo, she was pregnant from being raped. As Agojie is not allowed to marry or have lovers, she has to hide her pregnancy from her peers. Eventually, she gave birth to a baby girl, with Amenza acting as midwife. Amenza gave the little girl to a group of wandering missionaries. She was made to promise by Nanisca that even if she begged to know where her child was, Amenza would not tell her.
But before giving her baby, while she was alone with her, Nanisca put a mark on her baby. She made a slice with a knife on her shoulder and stuck a shark’s tooth into the cavity. Nowadays, when Nanisca sees Nawi’s scar, a supposed birthmark, she is amazed at how much it resembles what she did to her child. In fact, Nanisca even has a similar scar on her own back although the story behind it is never told. At the public baths, Nanisca opens Nawi’s scar, from which the shark’s tooth falls out, revealing that Nanisca is her biological mother.
The unspoken of slavery
The Atlantic slave trade looms over the narrative of “The Woman King” as a specter from which no one is exempt, whether as victim or perpetrator. In fact, despite the film’s look at the vibrancy of a particular African culture, the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the intentional void in history when it comes to slavery. Slavery is considered the only means of prosperity by the West African kingdoms, while it is through the prism of it that the white man sees the Africans. That slavery was not just the business of the white man, but also of the tribal leaders and monarchs of Africa is shown repeatedly throughout the film.
Two particular scenes respond particularly well to this prejudice. One is the scene where Santo Ferreira tells King Ghezo how essential slavery is for the latter to keep up. Ghezo claims that the white man’s market view of Africans does not affect his throne and the power that comes with it and that the slave trade makes them interdependent, instead of giving Santo power over Ghezo. This assertion aims to respond to the power dynamic between Europeans and Africans at the time, supposedly biased against the latter. In another scene, Malik tells Nawi how his mother’s wish for him to see Dahomey completely changed his view of Africa and his lineage. In an earlier scene, we see him, and Santo Ferreira fascinated at the sight of Agojie’s ferocity. Following his visit to the Kingdom of Dahomey, he expresses how it makes him realize that Africans, unlike their existence in Europe, are not a blind and submissive race but a prosperous people of kings and warriors.
The Woman King (2022) movie ending, explained
After Nanisca arrives just before Shante’s coronation, Ghezo’s warning turns to admiration when she sees what she has accomplished – saving her soldiers from captivity and heinous exploitation, as well as effectively defeating the empire of Oyo by his fearlessness. Instead of having to leave her position as general of Agojie, Ghezo made her the Kpojito or “woman king”, a coveted position that placed a woman on equal footing with the monarch. Nanisca’s bravery instills in Ghezo an ambition to abolish their involvement in the slave trade, thus replacing it, if possible, with palm oil as an alternative source of income for his kingdom. This shows the extent of Nanisca’s influence, reaching beyond the military and into the social and economic realm of the kingdom, cementing just how excellent a monarch she will prove to be.
Nawi apologizes to Nanisca for being the result of the most traumatic part of her life. Nanisca dismisses such a thought, reminding her that her birth was not her fault and, instead, her cowardice caused her to dump her daughter in favor of conformity. Soon after, mother and daughter unite as Nawi overcomes her guilt, causing Nanisca to claim her violation and exploitation by Nawi.