A Queen You Should Know
Njinga Mbandi was known under several names throughout her life and throughout history itself. Her several names were Nzinga Mbande, Dona Ana de Sousa, Zhinga, Ana de Souza, N’Zhinga, and Jinga (Confederation). Njinga got her name from her mother’s umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck at birth; “kujinga” in Kimbundu means to twist or turn (Confederation). Queen Njinga was born in the year of 1583 in Ndongo Kingdom; there is no month or day available of her actual birth. She was the ruler of the Mbundu and Matamba people of Angola for several years, even until her death in 1663; she was in her eighties and died peacefully (Snethen).
The Mbundu people created the Ndongo Kingdom in which was ruled by King Ngola at the time; the country’s name, Angola, derived from King Ngola (Mbundu). Mbundu is also known as “Kimbundu.” According to Britannica, they are the second largest ethnolinguistic group in Angola; the language spoken is Kimbundu, in which is a Bantu language. The Mbundu control more so of north-central Angola until this day (Britannica).
The Portuguese began exploring further into Central Africa to expand their colonization. They changed geographical direction due to the English and French threatening their monopoly of slave trading along the West Coast of Africa (Snethen). The African West Coast was the main trading center of enslaved Africans. The Portuguese were moving in to attempt to colonize Luanda. Luanda is the current capital of Angola, founded in 1575; it is located in the northwestern region of Angola.
In order to control Luanda, the Portuguese attacked the Ndongo Kindgom and many of their trading partners. This strategic move gave the Mbundu people nowhere else to turn except to the Portuguese (Engle). A Portuguese port was established in Luanda in 1617. This established settlement added fuel to the fire of anger and hostility. There was an attempt to calm the hostility between the Ndongo and the Portuguese. The Portuguese Governor, Joao Corria de Sousa, wanted to meet with King Ngola after running him out of his kingdom and taking thousands of his people prisoner (Snethen). King Ngola sent Njinga to the negotiation (Engle).
King Ngola was seen as weak to his people due to him falling to the Portuguese. He then committed suicide, in which left the kingdom to Queen Njinga in 1624. He only ruled for seven years (Confederation). “Other accounts claim Nzinga [Njinga] poisoned her brother, or murdered her bother’s son, the heir, after Ngola committed suicide, in order to seize power” (Engle).
One of the most talked about events during this time was Queen Njinga’s first meeting with the Portuguese. “In the first set of meetings Nzinga [Njinga] sought to establish her equality with the representative of the Portugal crown. Noting that the only chair in the room belonged to Governor Corria, she immediately motioned to one of her assistants who fell on her hands and knees and served as a chair for Nzinga [Njinga] for the rest of the meeting.”
Queen Njinga converted to Christianity and changed her name to Dona Anna de Souza to accommodate the Portuguese. It was said that King Ngola committed suicide due to the Portuguese demands of submitting to the slave trade business (Snethen). Queen Njinga refused the Portuguese’s demands. She then took over a nearby Kingdom of Matamba. She took Queen Mwongo Matamba’s army and joined it to the Ndongo Kingdom. She also welcomed runaway slaves captured by the Portuguese to join her army to help fight in the war against Portugal that lasted thirty years. Queen Njinga called upon all other tribes and kingdoms in Luanda that was controlled by the Portuguese(Engle).
Queen Njinga was known for her interesting army. “She kept consorts men who were required to dress as women, and she trained her ladies-in-waiting as warriors.” She also refused to be acknowledged as Queen, only as King (Engle). Njinga believed greatly in female empowerment and strength.
Another strategic move that she decided upon was reaching out to the Dutch, whom were in competition with Portugal. She proposed for them to join her army. Although Queen Njinga’s army grew greater and stronger, it was not enough to defeat the Portuguese. In order to defeat Portugal in a more strategic manner, she then started developing the Matamba and Ndongo Kingdoms as trading centers (Engle). Queen Njinga successfully resisted the colonization of the Portuguese through her military tactics and strategic maneuvers. She was the first female ruler of the Mbundu people and created a Kingdom of success.
I personally have never heard of Queen Njinga Mbandi, but I have heard of the Ndongo Kingdom and the Mbundu tribe due to me finding out that I am part Angolan from a DNA ancestry testing. Women who take charge as Queen Njinga did are truly inspirational to me. Her willingness to take leadership in the time of need for her people remind me of myself, minus the poisoning and murder of family in order to take that leadership role.
Queen Njinga took no disrespect nor did she allow herself to be belittled. In her first meeting with Governor Joao Corria de Sousa, she motioned one of her assistants to kneel on her hands and knees to provide her with a seat since the only seat in the room was for Governor Corria. In a way, this was challenging Governor Corria; she may have been proving a point that she had more power because she had the power to make one of her assistants to bow down to her authority. Governor Corria may not have had that power. Queen Njinga showed the Portuguese that she was nor would ever be inferior to them. She was a Queen and was going to be respected as such. Many women in today’s society have forgotten their power and entitlement as queens. Even after the death of King Ngola and his son, many including the Portuguese refused to acknowledge Queen Njinga as the ruler of the Ndongo Kingdom. She proved that she was the crown by overtaking the Matamba Kingdom and creating it as her own, as well as how she led her army. Njinga trained the women in her army as warriors; she held them to a higher position than she did for the men in her army. Men consorts were required to wear dresses and dress like women; this was her example of proving a woman was in power by belittling the position and ideology of what a man’s power and/or authority is supposed to be.
Until this day, Queen Njinga is one of the most respected rulers of not only amongst the Mbundu and Matamba people, but of the country of Angola. She was known to be a proud victorious woman from the meaning of her name. She also seen first hand how to rule a kingdom from her father favoring her and allowing her to sit beside him during important meetings; he even took her to war with him, where she learned effective military tactics (Confederation).
The success of Queen Njinga Mbande reassured my beliefs that women need to hold themselves to a higher standard. It is okay to lead and take charge regardless if this makes men feel inferior or lessens their ego. Women are strong enough to be the creators of life, raise the children that will then lead the nation, therefore women can lead a kingdom.
Britannica The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Ed.. 2016, Encyclopædia. “Mbundu.” Encyclopedia.com. HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. <http:// http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Mbundu.aspx>.
Confederation, Africa. “Kimundu History.” Untitled Document. Africa Confederation, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. <http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nzinga-1583-1663>.
Engle, KeriLynn. “Ana Nzinga Mbande, Fearless African Queen.” AWH. N.p., 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2016. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazingwomeninhistory.com%2Fanna- nzinga-mbande-fearless-africa-queen%2F>.
“Mbundu”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 13 Sep. 2016
Snethen, Jessica. “Queen Nzinga.” Black Past. Black Past, n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. <http:// http://www.blackpast.org/gah/queen-nzinga-1583-1663>.