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Nzinga (1583-1663) born into the royal family of the Ndongo region, became ruler of both Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. She is known by many names including 'the warrior queen'. 

Nzinga was born in 1583 in Angola. Her father was king of the Ndongo and she was his favourite. Out of her brothers and sisters she was the most intelligent and best warrior. Maybe her brother, Ngola Mbandi, was jealous of her. 


Nzinga's father died in 1617 so Nzinga’s brother (Ngola Mbandi) became king of Ndongo. The Portuguese were in Luanda at the time. With the Imbangala tribe, they began to attack the Ndongo so Ngola Mbandi sent his sister to make an agreement with the Portuguese. 


Nzinga travelled to Luanda to meet with the Portuguese. She travelled with her procession to Luanda. She arrived at her meeting with the Governor, but there was no chair for her. The Governor expected her to sit at his feet! Nzinga was not going to do this, she ordered one of her servants to go on all fours so that she could sit on them instead. The meeting went well. They agreed that slave-traders and missionaries would be allowed in Ndongo. They also agreed that slave-trading would happen in the capital of Ndongo, Kabasa, where Nzinga could oversee it. In Luanda Nzinga impressed people and became friends with the Governor’s wife. She also became a Christian. This pleased the Portuguese who were Christian. 


Imbangala / Mbangala - a group of warriors from central Angola / an ethnicity


Matamba - historical African kingdom where Mbundo people also lived, located east of Mbango.


Mbundu / Ambundu - ethnolinguistic group of people from North-Central Angola who speak Kimbundu (a Bantu language).

Ndongo - historical African kingdom where Mbundo people lived, located east of Luanda.

In 1624 Nzinga’s brother died. When he died Nzinga seized control of the Ndongo. It is surprising that she took power as the Ndongo was always ruled by men, and had a special way of choosing their king. 


In 1626 a new Governor arrived in Luanda. He did not keep to Nzinga’s agreement with the previous Governor. Ngola a Hari had wanted to take power of Ndogo instead of Nzinga. Now he worked with the Portuguese and they planned to capture Nzinga. 


Nzinga’s spies heard of this plan and told her. She left Ndongo with her followers. They ran away to Mabango. Ngola a Hari took control of Ndongo. 


Things were not going well in the Mabango Kingdom. The Portuguese, with the Imbangala, had been attacking the kingdom. Mabango was an unusual kingdom as it had female leaders. These two things (Mabango being in a bad situation and Mabango being used to female leaders) helped Nzinga to take power. 


Nzinga wanted Mabango to become a powerful kingdom against the Portuguese. She welcomed runaway slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers. She trained them to be in her army. She also sent spies to Luanda to see how the Portuguese were training their troops. This way she could make sure that her troops were ready to fight the Portuguese. She attacked Portuguese slave-traders and she traded slaves with the Dutch in the 1640s. Mabango became a powerful kingdom. 


In 1641 Nzinga joined with the Dutch to fight the Portuguese in Luanda. It looked like they were going to win, but then the Portuguese sent more soldiers from Brazil. The Dutch surrendered and left, and Nzinga had to retreat. 


Nzinga came up with a new plan and contacted the missionaries. She told them that she wanted to spread Christianity to her people. The Portuguese liked this idea and in 1656 they signed a new agreement with Nzinga and agreed that she was the ruler Ndongo as well as Matamba. 


As she grew older she dressed more and more like the Portuguese, she even wore a crown. 


Nzinga died on 17 December 1663 aged 81.

Nzinga (610L-800L): text

8 April 2020, Laura Webb

Works Cited Nzinga

Works Cited

Bortolot, Alexander Ives. “Women Leaders in African History: Ana Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo” The Met 150, The 

      Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2003,

Miller, Joseph C. “Nzinga of Matamba in a New Perspective.” The Journal of African History, vol. 16, no. 2, 1975, pp. 201–

      216. JSTOR, Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

“Pedagogical Unit Njinga, an inexhaustible source of inspiration” Unesco, Unesco,



Masioni, Pat. Unesco, Unesco, 2014,

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