December 17, 1663 is the death date of Queen Nzinga (Nzinga Mbande). On this 352nd anniversary of her death BLF takes the opportunity to reflect on the revolutionary legacy of this powerful black woman warrior – Sankofa style.
Queen Nzinga was the monarch of the Ndongo and Matamba people (of what is now called Angola) from 1626 to 1663. She was a brilliant tactician and revolutionary leader who led the resistance against the Portuguese slave trade in Central Africa.
Portugal sought to colonize Luanda at the turn of the 17th century so as to control the slave trade in the Central African coast. In furtherance of this aim it attacked Luanda’s trading partners. In this context Nzinga transformed the Ndongo kingdom into a powerful entity equal in commercial strength to the Portuguese colonies.
In 1617 the governor of Luanda directed by Portugal forced Nzinga’s brother, King Ngola Mbandi, into exile and also imprisoned thousands of Ndongo people. Subsequently in 1621 Queen Nzinga (sent by her brother) successfully brokered a peace deal with Portugal. Portugal however reneged on the terms of the peace treaty resulting in her brother taking his own life and passing the kingdom to her.
Nzinga was forced to devise another plan so as to facilitate the way ahead as her people were being attacked by both the Portuguese as well as neighboring aggressor states. Nzinga thus struck a tactical alliance with Portugal against her other enemies and so brought to an end Portuguese slave trade in the Ndongo Kingdom. The alliance was however short lived as Portugal once again betrayed the Ndongo people in 1626 forcing Queen Nzinga into exile in the nearby kingdom of Matamba. Queen Nzinga soon took over the Kingdom of Matamba after defeating Queen Mwongo Matamba and her army. She accordingly made Matamba her capital and added it to the Kingdom of Ndongo.
Queen Nzinga was known to have offered her kingdom as a place of refuge for runaway slaves as well as for African soldiers trained by the Portugese. This is how she built the military might of her kingdom of Mtamba. She then agitated the people still left in Ndongo into rebellion against the Portuguese who now ruled them. To this end she even formed a tactical alliance with the Dutch but this didn’t help to ultimately drive out the Portugese.
She resolved to retreat to Matamba and concentrated her energies into sucessfully developing Matamba into a formidable commercial power and trading hub in the Central African Region. Under her rule and beyond Matamba successfully resisted the Portuguese until it was integrated into Angola towards the end of the 19th century.
Queen Nzinga died at the age of 81 leaving behind a revolutionary legacy that continues to inspire the struggle for the decolonization of African lands.
Long Live Queen Nzinga Mbande!
Land or Death! Victory is Certain!
ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE OF THE BLACK FIRST LAND FIRST MOVEMENT
17 December 2015
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