Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Lupita Nyong’o on the Agoji Women, African Spirituality & the Importance of Black History

I was honored to meet with Lupita Nyong’o to discuss the history of the Agoji women, the inspiration behind Black Panther’s Dora Milaje, which she explores in her new documentary, Warrior Women. When I was first told I would be doing this interview, I became really excited as any opportunity which involves learning about any and all things about the continent of Africa is of great personal value to me. Watching Warrior Women taught me how the Agoji women became soldiers, how they battled and ultimately how they are remembered by the Dahomey people of Benin. After spending the morning trying to dodge the great British rain, I have to admit I was more nervous than ever to interview someone I have admired since I’ve been a teenager. However, as I soon as I entered the building, the energy from the team surrounding Lupita put me at ease immediately and with that the scene was set for a great interview. 

BB: What made you pick this project?

LN: Well I love learning about Africa. I feel like I had a very Eurocentric education and I feel like I am catching up with my understanding of my own people so that was the first reason why I was interested in this. I made a mental note to myself at the start of last year that I wanted to experience more of West Africa because I hadn’t yet been until last year. So, when this came up it intrigued me and there is also the correlation with Black Panther and the fact that the Dora Milaje are somehow inspired by the Agoji women.

I thought it was an incredible opportunity. Even when you visit a place like Benin you don’t always get the keys to the depths of the culture. You can have a very peripheral experience of a place unless you’re with the right people. For me, these were the right people [referring to the guides who took her around Benin and the Dahomey Kingdom].

BB: How did you find Benin? Did you really enjoy it there?

LN: Yes! We had a great time. I loved it. First of all, being in Benin I understood why it is that Africa has this image of being really hot… because it was hot! Kenya is not as hot. There are some places in Kenya that are that hot but like I grew up in Nairobi which is very temperate, but Benin was super hot, and I loved that. It was so, so, so different from my African context and I really loved seeing those differences and learning about not only the Agoji woman but also the culture there.