History repeatedly testifies to the fact that African Woman have been and are the driving force for positive change in Africa. The problem however is that this rich and revolutionary history has been hidden away from Africans; and substituted with that of our oppressors, the slave masters/owners. Whether it's 1863 or 2016, majority of the African populace (especially those in the rural areas) are poorly educated about African history, conquest and traditions. We are most conversant with "Western Cultures, holidays and traditions" but when asked about deeply intimate African history, many are ill-equipped to express valid knowledge on the aforementioned subject.
For example, "who is Queen Nzingah?" The answer; Queen Nzinga (Nzinga Mbande), the monarch of the Mbundu people, was a resilient leader who fought against the Portuguese and their expanding slave trade in Central Africa. Born as Princess Nzinga among the Mbundu (Ambundu) group of the Ndongo Kingdom in the central west Africa region now known as Angola. Her father was Ngola Kilajua, the word 'Ngola' referring to the title of the ruling chief, which later developed into the national name for the region. Her mother reportedly had no blood ties to the royal family within the landed chieftain system. Nzinga had one brother, Ngola Mbandi, and two sisters, Kifunji and Mukambu. Though she resisted Portuguese colonial occupation of central west Africa for over four decades, she officially ruled Ndongo from 1624-1626 and 1657-1663.
In her youth, Nzingha was strongly favored by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom, and who carried her with him to war. She participated in all the intense training for warriors. Nzingha grew up in a world normally suited for males. She was educated in the fields of hunting and archery, and in diplomay and trade. Nzingha was a true politician, and showed true military and intellectual genius. She also had two sisters Kifunji and Mukambu, and a brother Mbandi.
In 1626, Nzinga became the queen of her people following her brother’s death. According to one source, the king had committed suicide in the face of the increasingly aggressive Portuguese presence in the region. Another source, however, claims that it was Nzinga who murdered her brother. In the same year, the Portuguese renewed their attacks against the Ndongo by hiring the Imbangala to do their fighting for them. Unable to defeat the Portuguese militarily, Nzinga and her people fled westwards, and founded a new state at Matamba. From Matamba, Nzinga fought against the Portuguese in a war that lasted three decades. Amongst other measures, the queen offered sanctuary to runaway slaves and Portuguese-trained African soldiers who came to her kingdom. Additionally, she stirred up unrest within Ndongo as well, which was at that time controlled indirectly by the Portuguese via a puppet king. Moreover, Nzinga exploited European rivalries to her advantage. This can be seen in the alliance that she forged with the Dutch, who were the rivals of Portugal.
In 1657, weary from the long struggle against the Portuguese, Nzinga requested a new peace treaty. The church "re-accepted" Nzinga in 1656. She converted again to Catholicism in 1657. Along with the Capuchins, she promoted churches in her kingdom. After the wars with Portugal ended, she attempted to rebuild her nation, which had been seriously damaged by years of conflict and over-farming. She was anxious that Njinga Mona's Imbangala not succeed her as ruler of the combined kingdom of Ndongo and Matamba, and inserted language in the treaty that bound Portugal to assist her family to retain power. Lacking a son to succeed her, she tried to vest power in the Ngola Kanini family and arranged for her sister to marry João Guterres Ngola Kanini and to succeed her. This marriage, however, was not allowed, as priests maintained that João had a wife in Ambaca. She returned to the Christian church to distance herself ideologically from the Imbangala, and took a Kongo priest Calisto Zelotes dos Reis Magros as her personal confessor. She permitted Capuchin missionaries, first Antonio da Gaeta and the Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo to preach to her people. Both wrote lengthy accounts of her life, kingdom, and strong will. She devoted her efforts to resettling former slaves and allowing women to bear children. Despite numerous efforts to dethrone her, especially by Kasanje, whose Imbangala band settled to her south, Nzinga would die a peaceful death at the age of eighty on 17 December 1663 in Matamba. Matamba went through a civil war in her absence, but Francisco Guterres Ngola Kanini eventually carried on the royal line in the kingdom. Her death accelerated the Portuguese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portuguese slave trade. Portugal would not have control of the interior until the 20th century. By 1671, Ndongo became part of Portuguese Angola.
Today, she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, as well as her brilliant military tactics. Accounts of her life are often romanticized, and she is considered a symbol of the fight against oppression. A major street in Luanda is named after her, and a statue of her was placed in Kinaxixi on an impressive square in 2002, dedicated by President Santos to celebrate the 27th anniversary of independence. Angolan women are often married near the statue, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. The National Reserve Bank of Angola (BNA) issued a series of coins in tribute to Nzinga "in recognition of her role to defend self-determination and cultural identity of her people." An Angolan film, Nzinga, Queen of Angola (Portuguese: Njinga, Rainha de Angola), was released in 2013. Watch the trailer below!