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|Queen Ana Nzinga|
|Queen of Ndongo|
|Predecessor||Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba|
|Successor||Barbara of Matamba|
|Queen of Matamba|
|Successor||Barbara of Matamba|
|Died||December 17, 1663|
|House||The Kingdom of the Ndongo|
|Father||King Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba|
Queen Anna Nzinga (c. 1583 – December 17, 1663), also known as Njinga Mbande or Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande, was a 17th-century queen (muchino a muhatu) of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola. She came to power as an ambassador after demonstrating an ability to tactfully defuse foreign crises, as she regained control of the Portuguese fortress of Ambaca. Being the sister of the king, Ngola (King) Mbande, she naturally had an influence on political decisions, when the king assigned her to represent him in peace negotiations with bordering countries. Nzinga assumed control as regent of his young son, Kaza. Today she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, as well as her brilliant military tactics. A major street in Luanda is named after her, and a statue of her was placed in Kinaxixi on a square in 2002, dedicated by President Santos to celebrate the 27th anniversary of independence.
Nzinga was born to ngola Kia Samba and Guenguela Cakombe around 1583. Queen Anna Nzinga was born in the Portuguese settlement of Angola. She was related to Nzinga Mhemba, who was baptized as Alfonso in 1491 by the Portuguese. Nzinga's father, a dictator, was ruler of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms which governed the Mbundu people. Nzinga also had two sisters: Mubkumbu Mbande, or Lady Barbara and Kifunji, or Lady Grace; and Kifunji Mbande, also known as Dona Barbara. When Kia Samba was dethroned some time in the 1610s, his illegitimate son, Mbandi, took power and Nzinga was forced to leave the kingdom since she was his challenger to the throne.
According to tradition, she was named Njinga because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck (the Kimbundu verb kujinga means to twist or turn). It was said to be an indication that the person who had this characteristic would be proud and haughty, and a wise woman told her mother that Nzinga would become queen one day. According to her recollections later in life, she was greatly favoured by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom, and who carried her with him to war. She also had a brother, Mbandi, and two sisters, Kifunji and Mukambu. She lived during a period when the Atlantic slave trade and the consolidation of power by the Portuguese in the region were growing rapidly.
In the 16th century, the Portuguese position in the slave trade was threatened by England and France. As a result, the Portuguese shifted their slave-trading activities to the Congo and South West Africa. Mistaking the title of the ruler, ngola, for the name of the country, the Portuguese called the land of the Mbundu people "Angola"—the name by which it is still known today.
Nzinga first appears in historical records as the envoy of her brother, the ngiolssa Ngola Mbandi, at a peace conference with the Portuguese governor João Correia de Sousa in Luanda in 1622. With the death of Ngola Mbandi in 1624 and her election as queen by a faction of the eligible electors from Ngola’s court, Mjinga’s rivals refused to regard her as the legitimate ruler of Ndongo, and they joined with the Portuguese in an attempt to remove her from the throne.
In 1557, the ruler (ngola) of Ndongo, Ndambi, requested military aid from the Portuguese and to be baptized. In 1560, an embassy led by Paulo Dias de Novais arrived but the new ruler of Ndongo, Kiluanji kia Ndambi suspected them to be agents of the Kongo and had them imprisoned. Kiluanji, however, allowed Novais to return to Portugal under the condition to lend military aid. In 1575, Novais returned with an expedition of seven ships, 700 settlers and 350 soldiers and in 1576 established at Luanda a new settlement with the consent of the kings of Ndongo and Kongo.
By 1618, the heir of Ndambi and ruler of Matamba, Mbandi, whom Nzinga was a sister of, revolted against the Portuguese, but were defeated by the forces of governor Luís Mendes de Vasconcelos who attacked the Ndongo capital with the help of allied Imbangala and executed the nobles of the Ndongo dynasty. The Portuguese expected conquered African kingdoms to pay them a tribute in slaves. The slavery tribute was set up by a Portuguese official, Bento Cardoso, in 1608, which "demanded the delivery of slaves to the Portuguese through a Ndongo notable."
Mbandi called Nzinga back to the kingdom sometime in 1617 in order to meet with the Portuguese with the goal of securing the independence of Ndongo.
Nzinga was sent to offer a treaty of peace, reaching out to the Portuguese governor of Luanda. The meeting took place in 1622, and Nzinga surprised the delegates, "who were stunned by her self-assurance." The governor, João Correia de Sousa, never gained the advantage at the meeting and agreed to her terms, which resulted in a treaty on equal terms. One important point of disagreement was the question of whether Ndongo surrendered to Portugal and accepted vassalage status. A famous story says that in her meeting with the Portuguese governor, João Correia de Sousa did not offer a chair to sit on during the negotiations, and, instead, had placed a floor mat for her to sit, which in Mbundu custom was appropriate only for subordinates. Not willing to accept this degradation she ordered one of her servants to get down on the ground and sat on the servant's back during negotiations. The scene was imaginatively reconstructed by the Italian priest Cavazzi and printed as an engraving in his book of 1687.
Nzinga converted to Catholicism in 1622, where she was baptized in Luanda. Nzinga may have converted in order to strengthen the peace treaty with the Portuguese, and adopted the name Dona Anna de Sousa in honour of the governor's wife when she was baptised, who was also her godmother. She sometimes used this name in her correspondence (or just Anna). Her first conversion was "done primarily for political reasons and to ingratiate herself to the Portuguese." The Portuguese never honoured the treaty. And despite the alliance with the Portuguese, they continued to raid her kingdom, taking "slaves and precious items" in the process.
Neither withdrawing Ambaca, nor returning the subjects, who they held were slaves captured in war, and they were unable to restrain the Imbangala.
Nzinga's brother committed suicide following this diplomatic impasse, convinced that he would never have been able to recover what he had lost in the war. Lies were also afoot that Nzinga had actually poisoned him, and these lies were repeated by the Portuguese as grounds for not honouring her right to succeed her brother and propaganda.
Nzinga assumed control as regent of his young son, Kaza, who was then residing with the Imbangala. Nzinga sent to have the boy in her charge. The son returned, whom she is alleged to have killed for his impudence. She then assumed the powers of ruling in Ndongo. In her correspondence in 1624 she fancifully styled herself "Lady of Andongo" (senhora de Andongo), but in a letter of 1626 she now called herself "Queen of Andongo" (rainha de Andongo), a title which she bore from then on.
Nzinga had a rival, Hari a Ndongo, who was opposed to a woman ruling. Hari, who was later christened Felipe I, swore vassalage to the Portuguese. With the help of members in the Kasanje Kingdom and Ndongo nobles opposed to Nzinga, she was removed from Luanda, and she fled to Milemba aCangola.
Nzinga was defeated in 1625 and withdrew her forces to the east. The Portuguese set up Nzinga's sister, Kifunji, as a puppet ruler who acted as a loyal spy to Nzinga for many years. Nzinga was able to regroup and strengthen her base of power within the territory of Matamba in 1629. During this time, Nzinga accepted refugees of the slave trade.
During the 1630s, Nzinga was able to seize power in Matamba when the female chief or muhongo Matamba, died.
In 1641, the Dutch, working in alliance with the Kingdom of Kongo, seized Luanda. Nzinga soon sent them an embassy and concluded an alliance with them against the Portuguese who continued to occupy the inland parts of their colony of males with their main headquarters at the town of Masangano. Hoping to recover lost lands with Dutch help, she moved her capital to Kavanga in the northern part of Ndongo's former domains. In 1644 she defeated the Portuguese army at Ngoleme, but was unable to follow up. Then, in 1646, she was defeated by the Portuguese at Kavanga and, in the process, her other sister was captured, along with her archives, which revealed her alliance with Kongo. These archives also showed that her captive sister had been in secret correspondence with Nzinga and had revealed coveted Portuguese plans to her. As a result of the woman's spying, the Portuguese reputedly drowned the sister in the Kwanza River.
However, another account states that the sister managed to escape, and ran away to modern-day Namibia.
The Dutch in Luanda now sent Nzinga reinforcements, and with their help, Nzinga routed a Portuguese army in 1647 at the Battle of Kombi. Nzinga then laid siege to the Portuguese presidios of Ambaca, Muxima and their capital, Masangano. Lacking artillery, the attacks were unsuccessful in dislodging the Portuguese.
As the Portuguese recaptured Luanda with a Brazilian-based assault led by Salvador Correia de Sá the following year in August 15, 1648, Nzinga requested a cease-fire, and was forced to retreat to Matamba where she continued to skirmish against the Portuguese well into her sixties, personally leading troops into battle.
In 1657, weary from the long struggle against the Portuguese, Nzinga requested a new peace treaty. The church "re-accepted" Nzinga in 1656. She converted again to Catholicism in 1657. Along with the Capuchins, she promoted churches in her kingdom. After the wars with Portugal ended, she attempted to rebuild her nation, which had been seriously damaged by years of conflict and over-farming. She was anxious that Njinga Mona's Imbangala not succeed her as ruler of the combined kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba, and inserted language in the treaty that bound Portugal to assist her family to retain power. Lacking a son to succeed her, she tried to vest power in the Ngola Kanini family and arranged for her sister to marry João Guterres Ngola Kanini and to succeed her. This marriage, however, was not allowed, as priests maintained that João had a wife in Ambaca. She returned to the Christian church to distance herself ideologically from the Imbangala, and took a Kongo priest Calisto Zelotes dos Reis Magros as her personal confessor. She permitted Capuchin missionaries, first Antonio da Gaeta and the Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo to preach to her people. Both wrote lengthy accounts of her life, kingdom, and strong will.
She devoted her efforts to resettling former slaves and allowing women to bear children. Despite numerous efforts to dethrone her, especially by Kasanje, whose Imbangala band settled to her south, Nzinga would die a peaceful death at the age of eighty on 17 December 1663 in Matamba. Matamba went though a civil war in her absence, but Francisco Guterres Ngola Kanini eventually carried on the royal line in the kingdom. Her death accelerated the Portuguese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade. Portugal would not have control of the interior until the 20th century. By 1671, Ndongo became part of Portuguese Angola.
Today, she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, as well as her brilliant military tactics. Accounts of her life are often romanticized, and she is considered a symbol of the fight against oppression.
A major street in Luanda is named after her, and a statue of her was placed in Kinaxixi on an impressive square in 2002, dedicated by President Santos to celebrate the 27th anniversary of independence. Angolan women are often married near the statue, especially on Thursdays and Fridays.
The National Reserve Bank of Angola (BNA) issued a series of coins in tribute to Nzinga "in recognition of her role to defend self-determination and cultural identity of her people."
An Angolan film, Nzinga, Queen of Angola (Portuguese: Njinga, Rainha de Angola), was released in 2013.
Nzinga has many variations on her name and, in some cases, is even known by completely different names, because of the multiple aliases she used in correspondence with the Portuguese. These names include (but are not limited to): Queen Nzinga, Nzinga I, Queen Nzinga Mdongo, Nzinga Mbandi, Nzinga Mbande, Jinga, Singa, Zhinga, Ginga, Njinga, Njingha, Ana Nzinga, Ngola Nzinga, Nzinga of Matamba, Queen Nzinga of Ndongo, Zinga, Zingua, Ann Nzinga, Nxingha, Mbande Ana Nzinga, Ann Nzinga, Anna de Sousa, and Dona Ana de Sousa.
In current Kimbundu language, her name should be spelled Njinga, with the second letter being a soft "j" as the letter is pronounced in French and Portuguese. She wrote her name in several letters as "Ginga". A statue of Njinga was created in 2004 and placed on an important square at Kinaxixi in Luanda calls her "Mwene Njinga Mbande". This statue was subsequently taken down, and now stands in front of the Military Museum in São Miguel, the fort over Luanda's harbor.
According to the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir, Nzinga was a woman who "immolated her lovers." De Sade's reference for this comes from History of Zangua, Queen of Angola (written by the missionary Giovanni Cavazzi da Montecuccolo, 1687). It claims that after becoming queen, she obtained a large, all male harem at her disposal. These men wore women's clothing and were known as chibados.
Her men fought to the death in order to spend the night with her and, after a single night of lovemaking, were put to death. It is also said that Nzinga made her male servants dress as women. In 1633, Nzinga's oldest brother died of cancer, which some attribute to her.
Nzinga is one of Africa's best documented early-modern rulers. About a dozen of her own letters are known (all but one published in Brásio, Monumenta volumes 6-11 and 15 passim). In addition, her early years are well described in the correspondence of Portuguese governor Fernão de Sousa, who was in the colony from 1624 to 1631 (published by Heintze). Her later activities are documented by the Portuguese chronicler António de Oliveira de Cadornega, and by two Italian Capuchin priests, Giovanni Cavazzi da Montecuccolo and Antonio Gaeta da Napoli, who resided in her court from 1658 until her death (Cavazzi presided at her funeral). Cavazzi included a number of watercolours in his manuscript which include Njinga as a central figure, as well as himself.
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