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Ann Nzinga Mbande

Ngola Ann Nzinga Mbande (pronounced Geen-gah Em-bahn-day) (c. 1583 - December 17, 1663) was queen (Ngola) of the Ndongo Kingdom of the Mbundu people in southwestern Africa. Her royal title in the Mbundu language, “Ngola,” was the derivation of the name of the country Angola.

Nzinga was born to Nzinga a Mbande Ngola Kiluaje and Guenguela Cakombe around 1583. Nzinga first appears in the historical record as the envoy of her brother, the Ngola, at a peace conference with the Portuguese governor in Luanda. After years of Portuguese incursions to capture slaves and intermittent bloody battles, Nzinga was able to negotiate a fair treaty of equal terms. Nzinga converted to Christianity to strengthen the treaty and adopted the name, Dona Anna de Souza. Unfortunately the Portuguese broke the treaty.

Upon learning of the breach, Nzinga asked her brother to intercede and fight back the Portuguese invasion. After he refused, she personally formed an alliance with the Jaga people by marrying their chief, and subsequently conquered the Matamba Kingdom. She gained notoriety during the war for personally leading her troops into battle. The Jaga eventually betrayed her, but she was able to form an alliance with the Dutch until they were defeated by the Portuguese at Luanda. After the defeat of the Dutch, Nzinga retreated to Matamba and continued to resist Portugal. She was able to form a further coalition with in 1635 the Kongo, Kassanje, Dembos, and Kissama. She resisted Portugal for thirty more years, continuing to lead troops into battle well beyond her sixties.

In time Portugal, and most of Europe, would come to respect her. Despite numerous efforts to dethrone her, Nzinga would die a peaceful death at age eighty on December 17, 1663 in Matamba. After her death her alliances disintegrated and the Portuguese overran the area. Today she is remembered in Angola for her political and diplomatic acumen, great wit and intelligence, as well as her brilliant military tactics.