Nzinga of Matamba
"She was a fierce anticolonial warrior, a militant fighter, a woman holding power in a male-dominated society, and she laid the basis for successful Angolan resistance to Portuguese colonialism all the way into the twentieth century,” -Aurora Levins Morales
A 17th century African Monarch, Nzinga received her name because at birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. It was said that the person who had this particular characteristic would grow to become a powerful and proud person. Spoilers: She did. 💪🏾
Nzinga had an older brother and since she wasn’t heir to the throne she wasn’t considered a threat or competition, so her father lavished his attention on her. She grew up receiving military training, attended war councils & important rituals, and learned to speak and read Portuguese. Since she was trained as a warrior and not concerned about a future as Queen, she was free to fight alongside her father in battles.
When her father died and her brother ascended to the throne, he was threatened by Nzinga’s infant son and had him killed as well as ordered Nzinga herself to be sterilized. She fled the kingdom of Ndongo (present-day northern Angola) and hung out until her brother asked her to return to be his Portuguese
ambassador in 1622. He immediately sent her to negotiate with the Portuguese Governor but when she arrived, everyone was given a chair except for her. It was a power move designed to show her that she was of subordinate status. One of Nzinga’s soldiers made himself into a chair and she negotiated a strong treaty while sitting face to face with the governor.
When her brother died, at his request Nzinga finally became ruler. From her new position as Queen and because of her training she was able to lead her soldiers into battle and fought alongside them LIKE A BOSS.
Despite many attempts to dethrone or murder her, Nzinga died a peaceful death at age 82 in 1663. She is known today as the Mother of Angola. Her political, diplomatic wisdom and her military genius paired with her strength as a woman leader set the foundation for a great number of future female leaders of Ndongo.