NZINGA OF MATAMBA
ANA DE SOUSA NZINGHA MBANDE
NZINGA OF MATAMBA & NDONGO
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. She was lucky to survive her birth as she was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. 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. Some say that her brother, Ngola Mbandi, was jealous of her.
When her father, Ngola Mbandi Kilmanji, died in 1617, Nzinga’s brother (Ngola Mbandi) became king of Ndongo. The Portuguese were in Luanda at the time, they had invaded in order to take slaves from Angola to Brazil. They recruited Imbangala and were fighting with Ngola Mbandi. Imbangala / Mbangala were a group of warriors from central Angola. The Portuguese-Imbangala forces began to win against Ngola Mbandi so he sent his sister to make an agreement with the Portuguese.
Nzinga travelled to Luanda to meet with the Portuguese and arrived with her procession in Luanda. She spoke Kimbundu and Portuguese so was able to communicate with the Governor who was in charge of Luanda. The Governor
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.
8 April 2020, Laura Webb
was a portuguese man called Correia de Sousa. When she arrived at her meeting with him, 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. Her negotiations went well. While in Luanda she impressed people with her charisma and became friends with the Governor’s wife. She also converted to christianity and was baptised. (It was at her baptism that ‘Ana de Sousa’ became part of her name.) All of this pleased the Portuguese who were Christian. With the Governor, they agreed that slave-traders and missionaries would be allowed in Ndongo and that slave-trading would happen in the capital, Kabasa, where she could oversee it.
In 1624 Nzinga’s brother died, the cause of his death is not known. 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 and he did not keep to Nzinga’s agreement with the previous Governor. Ngola a Hari, who had wanted to take power of Ndogo instead of Nzinga, 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 and they fled to Mabango. Ngola a Hari took control of Ndongo.
The Mabango Kingdom was not in a good state as the Portuguese, with the Imbangala, had been attacking the kingdom. Mabango was an unusual kingdom as it had female leaders. These two factors (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 set up a type of military organisation called ‘kilombo’ where young people would leave their families and be raised by the military. 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 well-prepared 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, until 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.
Bortolot, Alexander Ives. “Women Leaders in African History: Ana Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo” The Met 150, The
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2003, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pwmn_2/hd_pwmn_2.htm.
Miller, Joseph C. “Nzinga of Matamba in a New Perspective.” The Journal of African History, vol. 16, no. 2, 1975, pp. 201–
216. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/180812. Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.
“Pedagogical Unit Njinga, an inexhaustible source of inspiration” Unesco, Unesco,
Masioni, Pat. Unesco, Unesco, 2014, https://en.unesco.org/womeninafrica/sites/default/files/pdf/Nzinga%20Mbandi_Women%20in%20African%20History_Comic%20Strip.pdf