Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nzinga Mbandi - 17th Century Angolan Warrior Queen Who Forced the Portuguese to Their Knees

One of many impressive people that history has ignored - but not Marquis de Sade - is Angolan queen Nzinga Mbandi: ruthless, cruel and with more than a hint of femdom.

Seventeenth century image of queen Nzinga Mbandi negotiating with the Portugese governor, sitting on a servant.

There is a long list of women I want to write about. The bucket list includes several kick-ass women, such as female Japanese ninja Mochizuki Chiyome and Qiu Jin - "Woman Knight of Mirror Lake" a Chinese revolutionary during the last years of the Qing dynasty. Then there is the story of “Bandit Queen” Phoolan Devi, who became a modern day Indian Robin Hood.

They’ll have to wait a little longer. Today I read a story about Nzinga Mbandi, a 16th century Angolan warrior queen who held of the Portugese invaders for several decades. Nzinga Mbandi was not only a brilliant military strategist, but her life story has a strong femdom overtone. These are just some of the reasons I couldn’t resist letting her jump the queue.

Born around 1583, Nzinga Mbandi first rose to prominence in 1622 when she negotiated with the Portugese on behalf of her brother. The Iberian invaders sought to colonize Luanda – the capital of what is now Angola – to control the slave trade in the region. One famous story has it that during the negotiations the Portugese governor João Correia de Sousa did not offer her a chair. A humiliation she was not willing to accept, she ordered a servant to go down on the ground and sat on his back during the negotiations.

Quick wit gives queen Nzinga the upperhand, when she discovers her chair is missing. The governor didn't see that coming. (Image: Unesco comic strip)

Although a treaty was negotiated, the Portugese never honored it. As a result her brother, the king, commited suicide.  Some sources say Nzinga Mbandi had a hand in it, just like in the death of his son years later. Defying tradition, Nzinga Mbandi became the new sovereign of the Mbundu kingdom. The queen of Andongo as she now called herself, fought for many decades against both rival factions, while simultaneously holding of the Portugese invaders. In the end even the Portugese had to acknowledge her as a strategic mastermind, a military genius. Even though she personally led troops into battle well into her sixties, time gets the better of us all. In old age – 1657 –  she became weary and signed a peace treaty with the Portugese.

Perhaps the strongest testament to her shrewd strategic mind is that after she died, the Portugese finally succeeded in bringing the lands under their control.

According to the Marquis de Sade’s Philosophy in the Boudoir, Nzinga was a woman who "immolated her lovers." De Sade's reference for this comes from History of Zangua, Queen of Angola. It claims that after becoming queen, she obtained a large, all male harem at her disposal. Her men fought to the death in order to spend the night with her, and, after a single night of lovemaking, were put to death. It is also said that Nzinga made her male servants dress as women.

True or false – mind you the whole black widow spider thing is not my cup of tea – it only goes to show that history books are merely the collection of leftover facts that survive time, diluted by what is called the winner's curse. In the end there is no single truth, which probably means Nzinga's achievements will forever be underreported and underrated.

(Image: Unesco comic strip)

No comments :

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...