(Anna Nzinga, Jinga, Nzingha, Dona Anna de Sousa
1582 - 1663
The daughter of Ngola Kiluanje (Kiluanji), king of Ndongo, and Guenguela Cakombe, Nzinga was forced into exile after her tyrannical father was dethroned and his illegitimate son took power. She remained in exile until soon after the Portuguese invaded around 1617. Her brother called upon her for assistance in repelling the foreign invaders. She bargained with the Portuguese leaders and in exchange for the release of several captives, Portuguese would recognize the Ndongo as a sovereign state. It is said that when she arrived at the negotiations, the Portuguese governor did not offer her a seat. She used one of her attendants as a seat to show that her people would follow her command. To further ingrain herself with the Portuguese, she claimed Christianity as her religion and took the name Dona Anna de Sousa.
These negotiations only served to slow the Portuguese invasion and slave raids. When she felt her brother had proved his ineptitude, she fled to the east, into the kingdom of Matamba. There she raised a guerilla army, consisting primarily of the Jaga or Imbangala, who were known as fierce mercenaries. Her warriors trained and fought with a passion and fervor that the Portuguese invaders could not match. A Dutch geographer (Olifert Dapper) once observed that her armies trained with leaping dances while swinging iron swords and axes, brandishing self-bows, and presenting magical fetishes. It was even reported that these dances involved ritual cannibalism.
Nzinga rose to power in Matamba and claimed the throne. She used this kingdom as a home base to stage attacks upon the Portuguese and their puppet government in Ndongo. She formed various alliances with neighbors to assist her in her campaigns. At one point she even allied with the Dutch to fight the Portuguese. Their assistance was less than helpful and she was forced to retreat and regroup her army.
In 1624, her brother died (according to some accounts, he was poisoned by her) and she claimed the throne of Ndongo as well. From her new position she formed a coalition with numerous kingdoms, including Kongo to the north and Kassanje to the east. Both sides fought to a standstill and as the loss of life mounted, Nzinga was forced to reach a peace treaty with the Portuguese. She died on December 17th, 1663 at the age of eighty-one.
Queen Nzinga was known for both her military cunning and her charming, yet brutal, bargaining tactics. She included women in her army and so was able to amass sizable forces easily. A woman always on the front line of her fights, she is famous among African leaders for uniting the many kingdoms of Northern Angola.
Page, Willie F., Encyclopedia of African History and Culture, 2001
Collelo, Thomas, Angola: A Country Study, 1989
Many other sources provided conflicting chronologies of events, I have attempted to present facts that are verified by multiple sources. Please /msg me if you feel there are any events I have omitted.