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Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba
Queen of Mbande
Reign1623 - 1663
BirthplaceAngola, Afrika

Nzinga Mbande (c. 1583 – December 17, 1663), was a 17th Century queen (muchino a muhatu) of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in southwestern Afrika.

Early life

Nzinga, was born to Ngola Kiluanji and Kangela in 1581, 1582 or 1583 in the village of Costa de Caparique. According to tradition, she was named Nzinga 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 women said to her mother that Nzingha will 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, Ngola 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.

Coming to Power

Nzinga came to power, in the midst of the Portuguese trying to put out the light of her civilization. Her brother, King Mbandi passed away. She took the reins and ruled the kingdom. Implementing many programs directed at keeping her lands out of Portuguese hands. The first thing she did when she came into power was organize a meeting with Portuguese officials, drawing out detailed demands for the invaders to follow, under threat of all out war. She called a conference and it was to be held at the Portuguese stronghold of Luanda.