Nzinga of Ndongo; The Queen who resisted slavery….

How many famous queens can you name? Those who enjoy history might think of Elizabeth I. Others may jump to Cleopatra or Amanirenas. There’s another great queen among others who was a great leader, negotiator, and protector from Africa. She’s Queen Nzinga of Ndongo, Angola.

Image ref: Pinterest

Who was Queen Nzinga?

You may sometimes see her name spelt Njinga. She was born in 1583 to the king of the Ndongo people. At that time, they lived in Luanda – a part of the region of Africa called and known today as Angola. As a child, Nzinga proved to be intelligent and charismatic.

When Nzinga’s father died, her brother took over as ruler. His name was Mbandi and was known to be a cruel leader who was claimed to have murdered Nzinga’s (his sister’s) son because he considered him a threat to his rule. As a result, Nzinga and her husband fled their native home.

After many years, Mbandi found that he needed his sister’s help because his kingdom was under attack by Portugal, looking for those they could kidnap and enslave. The Portuguese heard there were silver mines in the region.

Mbandi knew Nzinga was a skilled negotiator. So, he asked her to meet the Portuguese leaders. Nzinga agreed and met Governor Joao Corria de Sousa in the nearby Portuguese settlement. 

Image ref: Pinterest

When she arrived, Nzinga noticed something odd. There was only one chair in the meeting room—and it was for Corria de Sousa. He expected Nzinga to either sit on the floor or remain standing. Either way, the message was clear—Corria de Sousa did not see Nzinga as his equal. 

In response, Nzinga motioned to one of the Ndongo people who accompanied her. This person lowered to their hands and knees. Nzinga sat on their back, at an equal level with Corria de Sousa. 

Nzinga’s goals in this meeting were complicated – to stop the Portuguese from kidnapping her people and selling them in the slave trade but did not want to worsen Ndongo relations with their colonisers.

In the end, Nzinga and Corria de Sousa made many compromises. One was to convert to Christianity, allow Portuguese missionaries and slave traders among the Ndongo for a short period of time and in return, the Portuguese would abandon a fortress on Ndongo land and release several chiefs they had taken as prisoners.

It happened that in 1624, Nzinga’s brother died, and she became queen, and two years later, the Portuguese had gone back on their word. They recognised a different person as the Ndongo leader instead of Nzinga. This man was aligned with Portugal’s mission, aiding the Portuguese to continue raiding Ndongo lands, capturing people, and selling them into slavery.

Image ref: Pinterest

Nzinga and those loyal to her fled west, founded a new state called Matamba, welcomed people who had escaped enslavement and others wronged by the Portuguese and in that period formed an alliance with the Netherlands, another nation involved in the slave trade.

In 1641, Nzinga’s forces were temporarily able to push the Portuguese out of Ndongo. They did so with help from the Netherlands. However, the Portuguese returned and retook control in 1648. Nzinga then focused on building her power in Matamba. Over the next two decades, Matamba became a well-established state that negotiated on equal footing with European powers.

Nzinga lived to the age of 81 and passed in 1663, and her sister, Kambu (Lady Barbara), succeeded her as ruler.

Image ref: UNESCO

Today, Nzinga is remembered as a queen who stood up to European colonisers and did her best to protect her people from the evils of the Atlantic Slave Trade.

The trading of enslaved people ended in Angola in 1836. What do you think of Queen Nzinga’s legacy? Do share with us in the comment section.

SHOWHIDE Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.