The More You Know: Queen Nzinga

Queen Nzinga was born sometime between 1580 and 1583. She was one of several children of Ngola (king) Kia Samba, who ruled over the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms. 

Her father, Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba, reigned during a time of constant conflict with the Portuguese, who’d arrived in Angola in the late 14th century. Her brother, Mbandi, inherited the throne after their father, but proved himself unable to handle the growing threat from the Portuguese and other African kingdoms. 

The Portuguese established a treaty with one of the strongest kingdoms in Angola – the Kongo. The Kongo king, his son and their advisers converted to Christianity to establish trade between the two kingdoms. The Kingdom of Kongo wanted alcohol and cloth, while the Portuguese wanted people for slave labor. By the 1560’s, due to increased Portuguese demands, around 7,000 people were sold into slavery every year. Most of these people were taken to Brazil. By 1576, the Portuguese established an administrative division for slave trading at Luanda Bay. 

Between the 1620’s and 1650’s, Queen Nzinga led a steady opposition against the encroaching Portuguese and African slave traders. Other than the three decade opposition she led against the Portuguese, she is best known for her clever mind, and tactful strategies.

One of the most well-known stories about her is during a meeting with a Portuguese official. According to most renditions, the only seat in the room belonged to the Portuguese official. Queen Nzinga’s servant immediately rushed to serve as a seat, so that Queen Nzinga and the Portuguese official could speak as equals. 

Today, Nzinga is remembered for being a proto-nationalist and an anti-colonialist.

Queen Nzinga Mbandi of the Ndongo & Matamba Kingdoms
Credit: Erik Kristensen

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