Nzinga Mbande was the queen of the Ndongo and Matamba people from 1624 until her death in 1663. She ruled for 39 years.
Nzinga was born sometime in 1583 to Ngola Kilaunji and Guenguela Cakombe in Ndongo, an kingdom located in what is now Angola. As a child, Nzinga was the envoy for her brother, the Ngola, at various peace conferences with Europeans. At the time, Portuguese colonists were attempting to take away native African land, capture and sell Africans into slavery, and destroy the Africans and their culture, as they were considered inferior and subhuman. At one conference, a peace treaty was made with the Portuguese settlers of Luanda. As a sign of good will, Nzinga converted Christianity, was baptized, and changed her name to Anna de Sousa. The Portuguese, however, broke the treaty and attacked Ndongo in 1623.
Nzinga urged her brother, the King of Ndongo, to retaliate against the Portuguese. Her brother refused, angering Nzinga – he was proving to be an ineffective ruler. Nzinga decided to take the fate of Ndongo in her own hands. She poisoned her brother and declared herself Queen of Ndongo. She married the chief of the Matamba and Jaga people, and eventually came to control their lands. She made an alliance with the Dutch, whose presence in Africa was also threatened by the Portuguese. Nzinga raised an army, and fought valiantly against the Portuguese. But, Portuguese reinforcements from Brazil arrived in Luanda, and beat Nzinga and her army.
Nzinga retreated back to Mbande. The Portuguese, seeing that Mbande would never be conquered until Nzinga died, abandoned their war with her. Nzinga ruled Mbande until her death. She died peacefully on December 17, 1663, at the age of eighty. Today, Nzinga is remembered as a visionary leader and one of the greatest female rulers of Africa.
Intesting Fact #1: Nzinga’s name means “twisted” in the language of Ndongo. Her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck when she was born.
Interesting Fact #2: According to legend, Nzinga execute her lovers when she lost interest with them, so as to “honor” their love.
Interesting Fact #3: Nzinga’s alliance with the Dutch was the first African-European alliance against another European power.