Full Name: Queen Ana Nzinga (also known as Njinga Mbande or Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande)
Died: December 17, 1663
Notable: Politician and Queen
Nationality: Ndongo Kingdom (modern-day Angola)
By the 1600s, European countries had been trading in West Africa for quite some time with Portugal in particular dominating slave trading in the area. To feed the growing demand for slaves, the Portuguese expanded their presence and established a coastal colony at Luanda in what is now known as Angola. Nzinga was the daughter of a Mbundu chief within the Ndongo Kingdom, an area east of Luanda and into which the new Portuguese colony encroached.
Nzinga’s brother, Mbande, later became king and they attended a 1622 peace conference in Luanda aimed at defusing and resolving the ongoing conflict. Nzinga represented her brother at a meeting with the Portuguese governor during which she negotiated on his behalf. An agreement was reached in which Nzinga converted to Christianity, adopted a new name, and urged her brother to also have his subjects convert. It was hoped that this would appease the Portuguese and slow the raids aimed at enslaving the people of the Ndongo Kingdom.
Despite these concessions and a treaty being signed, the Portuguese didn’t honor the agreement and continued to make more demands. In despair over the continued conflict, Mbande committed suicide in 1626 and Nzinga ascended to the throne becoming Queen Nzinga despite the traditional Mbundu prohibition of female chiefs.
Queen Nzinga strived to remain independent, leading her army against the Portuguese in a 30-year war and founding the new state of Matamba in the African interior. She formed alliances with former African rivals and welcomed the Dutch as an ally against the Portuguese following their takeover of Luanda. When Luanda was recaptured by the Portuguese, Queen Nzinga retreated beyond their reach with her people and army to Matamba. Matamba became a trading center and also the site from which Queen Nzinga led guerilla attacks on the Portuguese well into her 60s.
Dying peacefully in her 80s, Queen Nzinga avoided capture and plots to kill her. Matamba achieved commercial success due to its advantageous position at the commercial crossroads of Central Africa’s interior. The guerilla attacks that began during Queen Nzinga’s reign continued beyond her death and culminated in the armed revolution that gained Angola its independence in 1975, more than 300 years later.
- “Queen Ana De Sousa Nzinga Mbande of Ndongo (Angola).” Black History Heroes, www.blackhistoryheroes.com/2011/03/queen-ana-de-sousa-njinga-mbande-of.html. Snethen, Jessica.
- “Queen Nzinga (1583-1663) BlackPast.” BlackPast, 31 Jan. 2019, www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/queen-nzinga-1583-1663/.
- “Women Leaders in African History: Ana Nzinga, Queen of Ndongo.” Metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pwmn_2/hd_pwmn_2.htm.
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