57 Queen Nzinga Facts: The Courageous Lady Of Ambundu Kingdom! | Kidadl

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57 Queen Nzinga Facts: The Courageous Lady Of Ambundu Kingdom!

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Queen Nzinga Mbande, or Queen Anna Nzinga, was one of the people in African history who contributed greatly towards independence.

Before her death in 1663, she had established herself as an able queen and protector of the people of Angola and Ngondo. Queen Anna Nzinga contributed towards making sure that the Portuguese colonizers faced ample resistance on their way to establishing control over Africa.

She deterred the Portuguese from trading slaves from the land and fought valiantly even though many people betrayed and tortured her over the years.

She was vocal about her demands from the Portuguese and was also one of the few women in Africa in the late 17th century who was actually well-read and fluent in the language of the colonizers. She was an able orator as well as an excellent negotiator, which added to the sheer charm and grandeur that she brought to the court during her reign. Keep reading to know more facts about Queen Nzinga!

The Early Life Of Queen Nzinga

Queen Nzinga was the daughter of Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba, who was the king of the land called Ndongo, which was located in central Africa. Nzinga's mother was given the prophecy that her daughter would be a queen, and since it was unusual for the time for a female leader to sit on the throne, her mother did not pay much heed to it at the time.

However, there might have been some real merit to the prophecy. At the time of birth, Nzinga was in a particularly problematic state. She was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and yet seemed to be perfectly fine and even delightful. The fact that she survived in the womb in such a troublesome state was a testament to the fact that she would later become the warrior queen.

Her name itself is a rendition of the tact of the little baby as she managed to survive at the time of birth. One of the two languages that the Mbundu people of Ndongo spoke was Kimbundu. In the Kimbundu language, the word 'kujinga' meant 'twist and turn', hinting towards her condition at the time of birth.

Nzinga's father is known to have been a leader of the tribe. He was against the Portuguese invasion as well as the slave trade, and in 1583, which is the same year that Queen Nzinga was born, he gathered the African people of Ndongo to revolt against the Portuguese. However, the king's temper and his inability to run the state in a healthy manner proved to be one of the reasons why his son and Nzinga's brother, Mbandi, ended up dethroning him and assumed the position of the king before his death.

However, Mbandi was no better either, his rule was as distressful for his sister and the people of Ndongo as that of Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba. He quickly lost power to Portuguese domination. Mbandi was very insecure about his position as king of the nation and in order to make sure that there were no threats to his crown, he not only sterilized his own sister but also had her son killed.

Anna Nzinga thus had her own life threatened at this time, and hence, had to flee with her husband. Nzinga moved to the neighboring land of Matamba, but her heart was always with Ndongo and she was determined to sit on the throne at some point. Since Matamba had a history of female rulers, her journey as a queen of the state was not as difficult as having to float the idea of ruling Ndongo someday.

As a way of regaining some power and making fruitful alliances, Queen Nzinga made friends with several provinces and convinced some influential armies like that of the Dutch. By this time, Queen Nzinga's brother and his rule were falling apart. He found himself in political distress, and hence had no one to turn to apart from his sister.

From this point on, Queen Nzinga came up as one of the true figures of power and mental stamina, who kept the Portuguese attempts at bay for a long time. She provided a new perspective and was the route through which more influential women leaders after her could assume power. She was truly ahead of her time.

Queen Nzinga died of natural causes.

Political Background Of Queen Nzinga

Named Nzinga Mbande at the time of her birth in the year 1583, Queen Nzinga was the symbol of resistance against the slave trade and the Portuguese colony. Born to a royal family, she was always opposed to the slave trade and the miserable condition of her fellow people from Africa.

Since Ndongo was the route towards the central African interior, the nation was an important part of the territories that the Portuguese army had to conquer in order to be able to establish trading power as well as to carry out the slave trade. Her father, the king, was definitely right when it came to presenting resistance towards Portuguese invaders and Dutch merchants but could only hold the throne for a little while, owing to his severe nature and tendency of having his own people killed on account of small mistakes.

Queen Nzinga seemed to have taken after her father in terms of closing the slave routes and protecting the escaped slaves, but, fortunately, she was not one to employ absurd and barbaric measures in order to reach the desired outcomes.

Nzinga, or Queen Njinga as she was known back in the day, was a warrior queen, and right from the early days of her life, she came up as a great negotiator. Her skills in terms of negotiating were so good that King Mbandi had to resort to contacting his sister when he entered a rough patch with the Portuguese.

She was summoned by the king of Ngondo to go to the Portuguese as a representative and to establish a peace treaty with them. Even though Mbandi had her child killed and sterilized, Queen Nzinga still agreed to negotiate on the terms with the governor of Portugal.

She went to the governor's chamber. As a way of teaching her that she, as an African woman, was inferior to him, he arranged for only one chair, which was to be taken by himself. Queen Nzinga was not one to be demotivated by such measures and asked one of her maids to kneel on her knees and hands in order to serve as a human chair. This showed the governor that she was not to be a puppet ruler.

She negotiated judiciously and made sure that the Portuguese governor did not have all his absurd demands granted. Mbandi's sister, Nzinga, was adamant about her demands and said that the slave raids would have to stop in exchange for allowing the Portuguese to establish trade routes. She also demanded that Ngondo be declared a sovereign nation.

One of her effective political measures of the time was that she allowed the establishment of Portuguese missionaries so that they could bring their advanced technology with them. As a great gesture, she was also baptized and took the name Dona Anna de Souza, which was also the last name of the governor himself.

The change of religion was not so much of a religious tact but a political method that she had to employ to show her allegiance. This peace treaty, however, did not serve much importance in African history. This was because the Portuguese failed to keep their word for long. They started killing their African enemies and recapturing runaway slaves.

Nzinga, however, continued trying to establish relationships with other armies in order to strengthen her power. She did try to regain the power of Ngondo after her brother's mysterious death, but was stopped by officials who believed that the land could not be governed by a queen solely. This led to her retreat to Matamba, although her heart always stayed at Ngondo.

Meanwhile, her sister was put on the throne of Ngondo as a puppet by the Portuguese. The aspect that the colonizers missed, however, was the fact that their puppet was loyal to her sister Nzinga.

Queen Anna Nzinga did finally sit on the throne and was named the dual queen before she named Angola as a free territory and established her reign more firmly. Nzinga continued her struggle with the Portuguese and held them off Angola till the time of her death.

Legacy Of Queen Nzinga

When it comes to her legacy, Nzinga opened the channels for women to be brave about their ambitions of sitting on the throne. While she was in power, the Portuguese had to keep off Angola and parts of southern West Africa. When the Portuguese finally gave power to the African people and withdrew their African colonies, the people of Angola had Queen Nzinga to thank for having instilled the values that upheld independence and despise for the wealthy colonizers.

Queen Nzinga's death was monumental for the Portuguese, however, since they were finally provided with the opportunity of making sure that they could gain control over these parts of Africa as well.

One of the notable things that Queen Nzinga did was that she chose her sister, Dona Barbara, as her successor to the throne. Since her own son was killed by King Mbandi, she either could choose someone from her court of officials or could choose someone from the family. Instead of trying to make the kingdom and royal family patriarchal again, she chose a woman to succeed her and this showed that her thoughts and style of governance were ahead of her time.

Accomplishments Of Queen Nzinga

Queen Dona Anna de Sousa is remembered for her zeal to ensure the freedom of her people. She was educated and spoke Portuguese fluently, which added to the list of things that made her a great negotiator with the Portuguese colonizers.

She was driven to guard her land and people, even though she was betrayed multiple times by many people. The fact that the people that she trusted, both family and otherwise, betrayed her was in no way enough to dull her. She continued to ward off the Portuguese colonizers and gave shelter to the slaves that had escaped from their fatal grip. Hence, Queen Nzinga was a symbol of power and positive changes in the psyche of the people of Africa.

Written By
Shirin Biswas

Shirin is a writer at Kidadl. She previously worked as an English teacher, and as an editor at Quizzy. While working at Big Books Publishing, she edited study guides for children. Shirin has a degree in English from Amity University, Noida, and has won awards for oratory, acting, and creative writing.

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