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The majority of the following article contains the fictional portrayal of one or more historical figures. Details in this article may differ from real world facts. For more information on the historical figure(s), consult the links provided within or at the bottom of the article.

Nzingha pictured on the cover

All the characters that appear in Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba by Patricia C. McKissack.

Main characters[]


Main article: Nzingha

Nzingha Kiluanji of Matamba[1] (c. 1582[2] – December 17, 1663)[3] was the eldest daughter of Ngola Ndambi Kiluanji and his second wife, Kengela. She had two younger sisters Mukambu and Kifunji, and several half-siblings, including Mbandi. Nzingha had an independent personality and treasured knowledge, thanks to her mentor, Ajala. Her friend Njali also taught her to hunt, a skill she used to gain her father's approval.

Supporting characters[]


Kengela (c. 1560s – c. 1616), also spelled Kangela,[2] was the mother of Nzingha, Mukambu, and Kifunji. She was the second wife of Ndambi Kiluanji, the Ngola of Ndongo. Her village was burned down by the Portuguese, who planned to sell her. However, Ndambi attacked them and Kengela became a slave for his mother, before he fell in love with her. Many opposed the marriage since she was a "jaga" (outsider), so Ndambi married Kwumi and Kengela at the same time to please everyone. After Kiluanji's death, Mbandi had her executed.


Kifunji (c. 1587 – ?)[2] was the youngest daughter of Ngola Ndambi Kiluanji and Kengela. Her elder sister Nzingha described her as "happy", "loves to play", and "always busy with her hands." She also disliked "servant's work" and would "not stand the slightest discomfort." Despite her flaws, Kifunji was extremely loyal to her sisters and supported Nzingha, when she angered their father. In later life, Kifunji became a widow after her husband was killed in battle. She remained with her sisters, until her own death in battle.


Mukambu (c. 1584 – c. 1670s)[2] was Nzingha's younger sister. She was the second daughter of the Ngola with his second wife. Nzingha described Mukambu as "quiet" and a "thinker." Unlike Kifunji, Mukambu never teased Nzingha and always stood up for her. Mukambu was also adept with a bow and arrow, thanks to Njali's tutelage. Later on in life, she was widowed when her husband died in war. After Nzingha's death in 1663, Mukambu became the leader of the Mbundu people of Matamba.

Ndambi Kiluanji[]

Ndambi Kiluanji (c. 1560 – c. 1617)[2] was the Ngola (ruler) of the Mbundu people of Ndongo. He was the father of atleast thirty children,[4] including Mbandi, Nzingha, Mukambu, Kifunji. Ndambi wished to take Kengela as his first wife, however several people opposed the marriage. To appease everyone, he married Kwumi and Kengela at the same time. During the spring of 1596, he grew close to his daughter and even gave her "his blessing to rule Ndongo when the time comes." He later sent her to the governor's palace in Luanda in his stead. After his death in 1617, his son became Ngola.


Njali, a warrior from Imbangala and the leader of the "Chosen Ones," the King's guards. He was Kiluanji's slave, before gaining his trust. Njali was also "like an uncle" to Nzingha and her sister. In the spring of 1596, Nzingha became suspicious of Njali. He later accompanied her and Father Giovanni to Luanda. Njali captured Nzingha and gave her to the Portuguese, though she was saved by Giovanni. He returned to Kabasa and revealed himself to Nzingha as a double spy. The Portuguese eventually learned he was a spy and sentenced him to death, though he escaped and continued fighting alongside Kiluanji.

Minor characters[]

  • Ajala was an oracle, who knew "the secrets of this world and of the spirit world beyond." She was a good friend of Kengela and Nzingha. Ajala predicted that Nzingha would become Ngola.
  • Atandi, a member of the "Chosen Ones", who guard the King and his family. It was often speculated that he would ask for Nzingha's hand in marriage.
  • Azeze[5] was a prince from the Mbundu's southern clans. He arrived in Kabasa to inform Ngola Ndambi about his father's decision to unite the clans under Kiluanji. Azeze married Nzingha, with whom he had a son. He died in battle just a few years after marrying.
  • Father Giovanni Gavazzi[3] was a Portuguese captive. He taught Ngola Kiluanji the ways of the Portuguese. Giovanni also taught Mbandi, and secretly Nzingha and her sisters. He also accompanied Nzingha to Luanda and saved her when the Portuguese captured her.
  • Dom João Furtado de Mendonça was a Portuguese governor. He requested an audience with the Ngola, who sent Nzingha instead to the governor's palace in Luanda. Mendonça asked for the Mbundu to give him slaves in exchange for wealth.
  • Juan Pedro, born Jmee,[6] a Mbundu man and friend of Susanna. He was a slave to a Portuguese sea captain, who had Juan baptized and renamed.
  • Kwumi[5] was the Ngola's first wife and mother of Mbandi. She felt superior to Kengela and treated her daughters rudely, because Kwumi's child was the Ngola's eldest son and heir.
  • Mbandi (c. 1579 – 1623)[2] was Ndambi Kiluanji's eldest son with his first wife, Kwumi. His half-sister Nzingha considered him to be incompetent, saying "he is stupid and slow, unfit to be Ngola." He became Ngola after his father's death in 1617.
  • Ngula was Mukambu's "noisy" parrot, who often repeated sounds it heard around the palace.
  • Pange, an orphaned leopard cub. Nzingha arranged for Ajala to care for him.
  • Susanna was a slave girl, who worked in the palace of the Portuguese governor. She befriended Nzingha during her time there.

Epilogue characters[]

  • Fernando João Carreida de Sousa, the new Portuguese governor. At Mbandi's request, Nzingha traveled to Luanda to negotiate with him.


  1. Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Patricia C. McKissack, Epilogue, page 90
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Patricia C. McKissack, The Kiluanji Family Tree, pages 101-104
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Patricia C. McKissack, Historical Note, pages 93-100
  4. Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Patricia C. McKissack, page 21
  5. 5.0 5.1 The names of Ngola Ndambi's first wife and Nzingha's husband are actually unknown.
  6. Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Patricia C. McKissack, page 75

See also[]

External links[]