In the capital of the African nation of Angola today stands a statue to Njinga, the 17th century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba...

In the capital of the African nation of Angola today stands a statue to Njinga, the 17th century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba kingdoms. Its presence is a testament to her skills as a diplomat, warrior, and leader of her people, all of which she demonstrated over the course of a reign described by Linda Heywood in Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen (Harvard University Press, 2017). The daughter of the Ndongo king Mbande a Ngola, Njinga grew up in a west central Africa that was facing growing encroachment by Portugal, who were major customers in the regions slave trade. Seeking to extend their control, the Portuguese challenged Njinga’s succession to the throne in 1624, prompting a war that lasted for three decades. To persevere, Njinga had to navigate the complex politics of the region, gaining control of the Matamba kingdom and pursuing ties with both the Vatican and the Dutch to provide a counterweight to the Portuguese. The treaty signed with Portugal in 1656 was a testament to her success, allowing her to focus on establishing a legacy of an independent kingdom that she could pass on to her sister after her death.

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