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Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba

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Nzinga Mbande, queen of the Ndongo and Matamba.
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Nzinga Mbande, queen of the Ndongo and Matamba.

Ngola Ann Nzinga Mbande (pronounced Geen-gah Em-bahn-day) (c. 1583 - December 17, 1663) was a 17th century queen (Ngola) of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in southwestern Africa. Her royal title in the Kimbundu language, Ngola, was from "Ngola" that the Portuguese took the name for the colony of Angola.

Nzinga was born to Nzinga a Mbande Ngola Kiluaje and Guenguela Cakombe around 1583. She lived during a period when the Atlantic slave trade and the consolidation of power by the Portuguese in the region were growing rapidly. Nzinga first appears in the historical record as the envoy of her brother, the Ngola Ngoli Bbondi, at a peace conference with the Portuguese governor in Luanda. After years of Portuguese incursions to capture slaves and intermittent bloody battles, Nzinga was able to negotiate a treaty of equal terms. Nzinga converted to Christianity to strengthen the treaty and adopted the name, Dona Anna de Souza. Ultimately the Portuguese broke the treaty.

Upon learning of the breach, Nzinga asked her brother to intercede and fight back the Portuguese invasion. After he refused, she personally formed an alliance with the Jaga people by marrying their chief, and subsequently conquered the Matamba Kingdom. She gained notoriety during the war for personally leading her troops into and forbade her subjects to call her “Queen,” preferring to be addressed as “King.” She was able to form a further coalition in 1635 with the kingdoms of Kongo, Kassanje, Dembos, and Kissama. The Jaga eventually betrayed her, but she was able to form a new alliance with the Dutch. With Nzinga's help the Dutch occupied Luanda from 1641-1648. When the Portuguese recaptured Luanda with a Brazilian based assault, Nzinga retreated to Matamba and continued to resist Portugal. She resisted Portugal well into her sixties, personally leading troops into battle.

In 1659, weary from the long struggle, Nzinga signed a peace treaty with Portugal. After the wars with Portugal ended, she attempted to reconstruct her nation that had been seriously damaged by years of conflict. She devoted her efforts to resettling former slaves and developing an economy that did not depend upon the slave trade. Despite numerous efforts to dethrone her, Nzinga would die a peaceful death at age eighty on December 17, 1663 in Matamba. After her death her alliances disintegrated and the Portuguese overran the area by 1671, although Portugal would not have total control of the interior until the 20th century. Today she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, great wit and intelligence, as well as her brilliant military tactics. In time Portugal, and most of Europe, would come to respect her.

Nzinga has many variations on her name and in some cases is even known by completely different names, these include but are not limited to: Queen Nzinga, Nzinga I, Queen Nzinga Mdongo, Nzinga Mbandi, Nzinga Mbande, Jinga, Singa, Zhinga, Ginga, Ana Nzinga, Ngola Nzinga, Nzinga of Matamba, Queen Nzingha of Ndongo, Ann Nzingha, Nxingha, Mbande Ana Nzingha, Ann Nzingha, and Dona Ana de Souza.

de:Nzinga von Matamba pt:Dona Ana de Souza

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