Nzinga

The rise of queen Nzinga (early years and accession to power)

Nzinga was born in 1583. She is the daughter of the Ngola (King) Mbandi Kiluanji and his wife Kangela, ruler of the kingdom of Ndongo. She had two sisters and one brother, Mbandi, who inherited power from their father. Her name –Nzinga- means that she was born with her umbilical cord around the neck. According to the tradition, people born this way are destined for greatness. Nzinga was her dad’s favourite and he started training her at a young age to the kingdom’s affairs. In her teenager years, Nzinga would often accompany her father to war.

Nzinga started appearing in European archives around 1622. That year, her brother, the Ngola Mbande (title given to the king and used in today’s country name Angola) sent her to a peace conference in Luanda to negotiate a deal with the Portuguese governor.

The deal was to convince the Portuguese invaders to withdraw from their territories, to stop the raids and incursions in the kingdom and to free their people held as captives.

To strengthen relationships with the Portuguese, Nzinga even converted to Christianism.  She took the name of Dona Ana de Souza to honour the governor’s wife who became Nzinga’s godmother.

Legend says that when she met with the governor, he asked her to seat on a mat, while he was sitting on a chair. Nzinga refused to do so and summoned one of her servants to get on all-four and provide a seat for her.

Unfortunately, the Portuguese didn’t honour their part of the deal: they didn’t vacate the occupied territories, and they continued their raids and incursions. Nzinga’s brother committed suicide in despair. Another legend says that she poisoned him, perhaps to get back at him, because he reportedly killed her only son to eliminate a potential successor. The Portuguese used the later explanation to refuse to recognize her as the rightful successor.

Nzinga then became the regent queen, in place of her nephew (her brother’s son). She later organised his assassination (gosh family killings were rampant then!) and officially became the queen of Ndongo in 1627.

This is a 3-parts series article to narrate the story of Queen Nzinga and her significance for this blog. Be sure to check part 2 and part 3.

Sources: Wikipedia Lisapoyakama.org

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