Queen Nzinga of Ndongo, by Adri Montano
Today we're going to be talking about Nzinga, the warrior queen. During the 1400s, European countries began taking parts of Africa to enrich themselves. They took its gold, Ivory, and slaves. Portugal established itself in Angola, which is in southwestern Africa. Queen Nzinga - the Queen of Ndongo, nowadays Angola - fought the Portuguese Colonists her entire life.
Nzinga is best known for her diplomacy. Once she met with the Portuguese Colonial Governor at his Palace. The Governor arranged chairs only for himself and his people and offered Nzinga a rug to sit on. Nzinga signaled a servant to kneel, hands on the floor to serve as her stool. This way, the queen and the governor could see eye-to-eye in their meeting.
Nzinga’s half brother, Mbandi, was the King of Ndongo - he was a real piece of trash. He sold his own people to the Portuguese. Nzinga was very upset about this and warned him to stop. However, he went against her and did it again. So she took drastic measures to kill him to save his people and became the queen of Ndongo.
The Portuguese broke all the promises they had with Nzinga and started to enslave her people. In turn, she declared war on the Portuguese. Nzinga allied with the Jaga - a people, known for their warlike abilities. She encouraged all escaped slaves of any tribe to join her and launched the first attack against the Portuguese around 1630. Sadly it was a losing battle. At age 60, she continued to fight for her people, but the Portuguese had better weapons and more troops. Nzinga died in Ndongo’s rocky highlands at age 82. Her homeland remained under Portuguese control until 1975, when Angola finally won its independence. Today the Angolan people still celebrate the memory of Nzinga, the warrior queen.
To illustrate Queen Nzinga, I researched the Angola people. They are a diverse group with a rich and colorful history. The geometric shapes of their clothes and their music inspired me to draw Queen Nzinga with movement around her and an aura of greatness. The Mwila women of Angola have meaningful hairstyles and several necklaces representing different stages in a woman's life. I recommend reading more about their amazing people and culture here.
I choose to illustrate this woman because of her courage, strength, and determination. As artists, we have an obligation to speak our truth and show the world - with our creative, artistic, unique abilities - the beauty, the horror, and the complexity of who we are as human beings. I hope her story inspired you to live by your truth.
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