In recent times there has been a claim on Twitter that the image we have always known to be that of Yaa Asantewaa is after all not her but that of an unknown American Theatre Arts student wearing a bulletproof war jacket and holding a gun posing as Yaa Asantewaa.
In lieu of that picture, we have been offered the picture of a bare-chested woman as that of the real picture of Yaa Asantewaa. The claim is that that picture was taken by the British in 1900 when Yaa Asantewaa was captured.
There is also another group picture which has Yaa Asantewaa, Prempeh I and other chiefs of Ashanti, purported to have been taken in Seychelles Island in 1920.
The question is which one of them is the true picture of Yaa Asantewaa?
Regarding the picture of the American girl allegedly posing as Yaa Asantewaa, I don't yet have any evidence to prove or disprove its accuracy. So I will leave things as they are.
Regarding the picture of the bare-chested woman, piecing some facts together, it is difficult to accept that that is Yaa Asantewaa.
If it were Yaa Asantewaa and was taken in 1900 as indicated, then remember that in 1900, the warrior Yaa Asantewaa was not that old. Yaa Asantewaa was said to have been born in 1840. That means she might have been 60 in 1900. But the bare-chested woman looks older than 60.
Also, Yaa Asantewaa died in exile on October 17, 1921. So that picture could not have been taken after the exile.
It would not have been too strange for an ordinary woman to be seen bare-chested in 1900 but very scandalous for a queen of the calibre of Yaa Asantewaa to be seen bare-chested in as late as 1900.
The fallacy of the bare-chested woman being Yaa Asantewaa becomes plainer when compared with the group picture which has her, Prempeh I and other Asante chiefs, purported to have been taken in the Seychelles Island in 1920.
Even though that picture was taken twenty years after that of the bare-chested woman was taken, Yaa Asantewaa in that picture looks younger than the bare-chested woman.
For me it would be better if we accept the picture of Yaa Asantewaa we have always known; in the bulletproof war jacket and holding a gun like that of Yaa Asantewaa and move on. That won't take anything away from her as a heroine.
By Osei Tutu