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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.

"I am accused of being independent. It is true, I suppose, for I would rather be kept in an open basket than a lukata–a box."

Nzingha Kiluanji of Matamba (c. 1582 – December 17, 1663) was the Ngola of Ndongo and Queen of Matamba. Her father was Ngola Ndambi Kiluanji and his second wife Kengela. She had two sisters, Mukambu and Kifunji, as well as several half-siblings.


Early life[]

Nzingha was born around 1582 to her parents, Ndambi Kiluanji and Kangela. Her father was the Ngola (ruler) of the Mbundu people of Ndongo. Nzingha's mother was a slave, before the Ngola married her and Kwumi at the same time. Kwumi gave birth to Mbandi two weeks after Nzingha's birth. Kangela later gave birth to Nzingha's sisters, Mukambu and Kifunji.

After Nzingha learned to walk, her mother brought her to Ajala, an oracle. Ajala informed her that Nzingha was destined to rule Ndongo. Kengela was skeptical at first, until a second reading gave the same results.

1595 – 1596[]

In June 1595, Nzingha and her sisters began taking lessons from Father Giovanni in secret. Nzingha mistrusted the priest, but eventually agreed to learn Portuguese from him. Her father and good friend, Njali, returned from battle a few months later. The following September, Nzingha warned her father about trusting Giovanni during a court session. He felt criticized and promptly banished Nzingha and her ever loyal sisters from court for several full moons.

Njali arranged a meeting between Nzingha and her father near the river. Her apology was accepted, and thanks to Father Giovanni, Nzingha and her sisters were welcomed back at court. Several weeks later, Azeze, a prince of the Mbundu's southern clans, visited for two months and left after Nzingha's coming-of-age ceremony. In January 1596, she went hunting with her father, a dear wish of Nzingha's. After hunting with him, Nzingha and her father grew close, which caused displeasure among Mbandi's people.

In April, Nzingha and her sisters captured two Pombeiros, slave traders for the Portuguese. The Pombeiros delivered a request from João Furtado de Mendonça, a Portuguese governor who wanted to negotiate a peace treaty with Kiluanji. He declined, but sent Nzingha with Njali and Father Giovanni to go see the governor in Luanda. After speaking with him, Nzingha was kidnapped by Pombeiros and Njali, but was rescued by Father Giovanni. Nzingha later learned that Njali was actually spying on the Portuguese for Kiluanji.

Later life[]

Nzingha married Azeze and had one son. Within a few years, Azeze was killed in battle. After her father's death in 1617, Mbandi become Ngola and ordered the deaths of Nzingha's mother and son. She later "put personal feelings aside" and negotiated with the Portuguese governor, Fernando João Carreida de Sousa, at Mbandi's request. During her time in Luanda, Nzingha was baptized and took on the name Ana de Sousa.

Mbandi died weeks after Nzingha's return to Kabasa. The Portuguese attacked, which forced Nzingha and her people to flee to the mountains of Matamba. Nzingha finally took control and was declared Ngola at the age of forty-two in 1624. She fought against the Portuguese slave trade for several years, until her death in 1663.

Personality and traits[]

Unlike her sisters, Nzingha longed to "know [her] father and to have him know [her]." She struggled with gaining his approval and had a wish to hunt with him before having to marry. Nzingha was also "accused of being independent" and a bit impulsive, which occasionally led her to overstep her bounds. However, she gradually matured and eventually gained her father's trust.

Nzingha treasured knowledge after Ajala told her "zai–knowledge–is yours forever." Ajala also taught Nzingha "about plants and herbs and the names of the ancestors." Nzingha's favorite lessons were with Njali, who taught her at length about weapons and fighting. She also attended lessons with Father Giovanni, despite seeing him as "the enemy." The priest taught her how to read and write fluently in Portuguese.

Family tree[]

The Kiluanji Family Tree[2]
♛Mbandi Kiluanji
(1) Kwumi*
Ndambi Kiluanji
(2) Kangela
♛ - Ngola (King or Queen) of Ndongo
* - Kwumi and Azeze are fictional, the real names of Ndambi's first wife and Nzingha's husband are unknown.

Behind the scenes[]



See also[]

External links[]