The African continent is famous for its great Kings and Queens who have ever existed. The Egyptian land is one of Africa’s regions where many Queens and Kings arose to power and left tremendous impacts on Egypt. This article will discuss one of Central Africa’s Queen who made history, and through her works during her lifetime, she is significant in the African history of Queens and Kings. The name of the great Central African Queen is Ana Nzinga Mbande.
Brief Description of Queen Ana Nzinga
Nzingha Mbande was a Queen of the Mbundu or Ambundu Empires of Matamba and Ndongo, located in modern-day Northern Angola. Born into the ruling Dynasty of Ndongo, Ana Nzinga got political and military training as a child. She showed an ability to defuse political conflicts as an ambassador to the Portuguese Kingdom. She later rose to power over the Empires after her brother and father’s death, who both served as rulers or kings. She ruled during an era of intense growth in the African slave trade and invasion of the Portuguese Kingdom into South West Africa in attempts to dominate the slave business. Queen Nzinga fought for the independence and stature of her Empires against the Europeans in a rule that lasted for more than 29 years.
Queen Nzinga’s Early Life
Nzinga was born into the noble family of Ndongo in Central West around the late 16th century (1583). She was the child of King Kilombo of Ndongo. Kengela ka Nkombe, her mother, was one of her dad’s slave wives. Nzinga had two sisters. One was called Mukumbu, and the other one was Kifunji. She also had a brother named Mbandi Kiluanji, who rose to the throne after their father lost his life. According to a legend, the birth procedure had been complicated and difficult for Kengela. Ana Nzinga got her name because the umbilical cord was all over her neck. According to oral traditions, a person who had this characteristic would grow to become a mighty and proud person. Nzinga’s father became the ruler of the Ndongo when she was only ten years old. Her father favored her so much when she was a child. Nzinga’s father neither considered her as an heir to the throne nor direct competition to her brothers. Therefore, the King lavished all attention upon her. Nzinga involved herself in several official and governance tasks, including war councils, legal councils, and significant rituals. The Portuguese missionaries taught Queen Nzinga how to read and write in their language.
During this time, the Empire of Ndongo handled several crises, primarily because of the Europeans’ conflicts. The Portuguese had 1st arrived in Ndongo in the late 15th century. They majorly concentrated on the port cities at 1st as part of the transatlantic slave trade and their power consolidation in the area. In 1571, Sebastian of Portugal commanded the conquest or subjugation of Ndongo. The Imbangala, a group of young nomadic fighters already in crises with Ndongo, joined forces with the Europeans. The Imbangala wanted to capture the Ndongo land, and the Europeans wanted to claim slaves out of the predicament.
The situation worsened because many Ndongo rulers joined forces with the Portuguese, which lessened the workforce and tributary funds available to the ruler. By the time Nzinga’s father became a king in 1593, the region had been at war for over a decade. The King attempted various methods to manage the crisis, including negotiations, diplomacy, and open warfare, but he could not improve it.
Succession to Power
In this subheading, we will talk about Nzinga’s Embassy and her trying to take over as a ruler.
In 1617, Ngola Mbani Kiluanji succumbed, and Ngola Mbandi, his son, and Nzinga’s brother, rose to power. As the new ruler, Mbandi was afraid that one-day Nzinga’s son would plan to assassinate him. Instead, he ordered people to kill her son and have Nzinga sterilized, which ensured that she would never have children again. Fearing for her precious life, Nzinga went to the Empire of Matamba, where she stayed until her brother asked for her to come back and be his ambassador to the Europeans. Her brother was unsuccessful in defeating the Portuguese, and he needed Nzinga’s aid to negotiate an agreement or a treaty. Nzinga was fluent in speaking Portuguese, so she was the best fit for the job. Angry with the terror and famine that destroyed her home village, she agreed to negotiate with the Portuguese Governor, Correia de Sousa.
In 1622, Nzinga reached Luanda. While Ndongo rulers met the Europeans in Western clothes, Nzinga decided to wear the Ndongo people’s traditional clothing to show that their culture wasn’t weak. According to oral traditions, when Nzinga arrived, there were seats for the Portuguese individuals, and for her, the people only provided a mat for Nzinga. This kind of behavior from the Europeans was usual. It was their way of showing a lower rank, a rank reserved for defeated or conquered Africans.
Nzinga’s soldier formed himself to be her seat while she interacted with the governor. According to the story, she managed to reach an agreement with the Portuguese, which involved removing Portuguese soldiers from Ndongo. Nzinga was also able to make sure that the Ndongo people didn’t need to pay taxes. She did this by arguing that the Empire was a self-governing or independent one rather than a vassal state. In return, she agreed to open trading ways to the Europeans, study their religion (Christianity), and get baptized (Luanda). She adopted the name of Anna de Sousa. Nzinga left Luanda with the sense of a peace agreement completed.
Following the negotiations, the peace and harmony between Imbangala and Ndongo declined. The Imbangala drove out the Ndongo of their court in Kabasa, which made the King in exile. The Portuguese didn’t want to continue with the treaty if the ruler was in exile. As a result, the Portuguese never respected the agreement, and they continued to attack the Empire, taking Africans as prisoners or captives and precious goods.
In 1624, Nzinga’s brother lost his life. Before his demise, he made it clear that his sister, Nzinga, should succeed him. After the death of Ngola Mbandi, the Portuguese announced war on Ndongo. Later on, Nzinga fled, and she took the Queen of Matamba and her men. From there, she made herself a Queen and took over the Empire. She then went back to Ndongo to take back her throne. Nzinga used genealogy to back up her claim to Ndongo’s throne against rivals.
However, Nzinga did not have a natural right to the throne because she was a child of a slave wife. Nzinga employed the claims that she descended from the chief noble line because of her dad, while her competitors or rivals did not. Her opponents used other examples to discredit her, such as that she was a female and thus unqualified or ineligible.
Ana Nzinga could not give a fair and credible reason for a female to rule. She was aware that being a woman lessened her acceptability in her fans’ or supporters’ eyes. As a result, Nzinga took up a more radical way of overcoming the prohibition of her sex. In the 1640s, Nzinga decided to disguise herself as a man. Nzinga or Njinga reinforced this aspect of maleness by involving herself in masculine pursuits.
The Legacy of Queen Ana Nzinga
Today, Angola people remember her as the Mother of Angola, her people’s defender, and the fighter of negotiations. Throughout the African continent, people honor her as a notable leader and woman for her diplomatic and political understanding and excellent military tactics. Moreover, people consider her as a symbol of the fight against cruelty or oppression. Nzinga managed to shape her nation into a form that embraced her rule. Njinga had not overcome the thought that women could not rule in Ndongo during her lifetime and had to disguise herself as a male to maintain power. Her female successors faced little or no problem in people accepting them as rulers. The creative use of her sex or gender and her political comprehension aided lay a foundation for future rulers or Ndongo leaders today.
In the era of over a century that followed Nzinga’s demise in the 17th century (1663), queens reigned for at least eighty of them. Queen Nzinga is a leading example for all generations of Angolan women. The Women in Angola today show significant social independence and are in the state’s army, police force, government, and economic sectors (private and public).
The BNA, the National Reserve Bank of Angola, gave a series of coins in tribute to Nzinga to acknowledge her role to protect her people’s self-determination and cultural distinctiveness.
Aurora Levins Morales writes that:
“She was a fierce anti-colonial warrior. A militant fighter. A woman holding power in a male-dominated society, and she laid the basis for successful Angolan resistance to European (Portuguese) colonialism all the way into the 20th century.”
Aurora Levins also cautions that:
“She was also an elite woman living off the work of others, killed her brother and his children, combated other African people on behalf of the Portuguese, and collaborated in the slave business.”