Queen Nzinga M’Bandi


In the 17th century, Queen Nzinga M’Bandi ruled for 40 years as the leader of N’Dongo and Matamba, also serving as Luanda’s Governor for three years, representing the Portuguese.[1]Known as the resilient leader of the Mbundu people, the monarch who fought against the Portuguese spread of the Transatlantic Slave Trade in Central Africa. She had to fight the slave traders to serve her country. Nzinga is an example of the leaders of local regions who did not deliberately sell their people into the Transatlantic Slave Trade.She frequently dressed as a man.

On her way to meet the Portuguese Governor Joao Corria de Sousa in 1622, she made certain everyone knew she was more than just a messenger for her brother. Accompanied by her serving women, the musician heralded her entrance to the meeting room.[2] According to Jessica Snethen, on her first encounter with the Governor, Nzinga Mbande ordered her assistant to act as her chair; she had to stay on her arms and knees the entire time. The governor made sitting arrangement for only one person – himself. Thus, she accommodated herself, could you imagine the look on everyone’s face when she made this bold move. According to Carlos SERRANO, the meeting that Nzinga attended with the Portuguese Governor was necessary because N’Dongo and Matamba physical border stood between the Portuguese negotiations with coastal Eastern Jagas (Yagas) or Imbangalas[3]. At that meeting Nzinga discussed the return of territories annexed by the Portuguese in exchange for her conversion to Christianity, she became Dona Anna de Sousa. However, the Portuguese ignored Nzinga, eager for trade with Jaga of Cassange. This resulted in some of N’Dongo local chiefs [sobas] broke away to also form their allegiances to Jaga of Cassange and the Portuguese. According to Carlos Serrano, Nzinga ordered the beheading of her uncle because he was one of the rebelling Sobas; she met him on his way to plead allegiance with the Portuguese.

Nzinga Mbande knew of Portuguese’s dominance on the coast especially in skilfully interfering with the local government. For this reason she did not ignore them, she knew they were a potential ally and she need their guns for her security. In this writer’s belief, such knowledge prompted Nzinga’s chair situation, it was a clear message to the Governor that she was his equal.

When her brother committed suicide in 1626, [Carlos Serrano explains that Nzinga poisoned him because of his wavering temperance towards the resistance], Nzinga became Queen of the Mbundu. When she realized that the Portuguese did not recognize her leadership in exchange for peace, Queen Nzinga rejected the Catholic faith. In 1627, she formed alliances with the Western Jagas and went to war with the Portuguese for 30 years. Queen Nzinga made use of the Dutch presence in Luanda by recovering some of N’Dongo lands by allying with some Sobas in that region.

When Brazilian General Salvador Correia de Sá y Benevides, restored Portuguese power in Luanda and aimed to conquer the interior, Queen Nzinga made a plea with him to reconvert to Catholicism in exchange for release of her sister, Cambu and her sovereignty of Ngola and Matamba. In 1657, Queen Nzinga and General Salvador signed a treaty limiting Nzinga’s rule to Matamba and freeing all Ngola/N’Dongo territories in exchange for Cambu’s freedom after 10 years.[4]

Queen Nzinga was a thorn in the flesh of the Portuguese who sought out many ways to capture or kill her. She led her troops to battle even in her 60’s, teaching her people guerrilla attacks against their foes which they used after her death[December 17, 1663 at 82] to finally gained independence in 1971 as Angola from the Portuguese.[5]

According to O. Nnaemeka, near the Cuanza River in Pungu Andongo lays a natural fortress where a prehistoric footprint stamps a rock, local legend that print represents Queen Nzinga’s own. Immediately one realizes the power that this leader emanated when persons bequeath a print on a rock as her own.[6]

[1] Gretchen Bauer, “Sub- Sahara Africa,” eds. Bauer Gretchen, Tremblay Manon. Women in Executive Power: A Global Overview. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2011. 85- 104

[2] O. NNAEMEKA, (1996), Development, Cultural Forces, and Women’s Achievements in Africa. Law & Policy, 18: 251–279. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9930.1996.tb00173.x

[3] Warrior tribes of South-western Africa

[4] Carlos M. H. Serrano, The Quilombo Queen of Ngola and Matamba, Translated and adapted by BRAVO Language Services Ltd. (Instituto Palmeiras, ADANIS, 2006)

[5] Jessica Snethen, Queen Nzinga (1583-1663). n.d. 20 March 2015 <http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nzinga-1583-1663&gt;

[6] O. NNAEMEKA, (1996)

NB. This a raw collection of data for Queen Nzinga. It a few years that this information sat on an old hard drive thus it is an incomplete assessment of this phenomenon woman. I implore you to check out the footnotes to get access to further material.


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