Backstory of Njinga
Queen Ann Njinga Mbande, the monarch of the Mbundu people, ruler of the Matamba people, daughter of Kangela and Ngola Kilombo Kia Kasenda, was a resilient leader who fought against the Portuguese and their expanding slave trade in Central Africa in the 17th century.
Across continents, her fierce spirit, vision and strong will spoke for her. For 30 long years, she served as a dynamic leader. She drew up battle plans and military tactics to evade the raid of the Portuguese in her kingdoms. Her negotiation skills were noteworthy when she was able to turn the Dutch forces in her favor to oppose invasions. Until her death, her vision and boldness helped save both kingdoms she ruled. Unfortunately after her death, the new rulers let the Portuguese take over the country. Nzinga demonstrated bravery, intelligence, and a relentless drive to bring peace to her people.
One of her most famous moments was her negotiation with Governor of Portuguese, Joao Corr a de Sousa. In a peace conference to settle hostilities between her people and his people, she was firm. She was a representative for the kingdom and the royal crown. On arrival, there was no seat available in the room, upon request she was ignored, her assistant then dropped on both limbs in the form of a stool on which she sat till the end of the meeting she spoke and acted like a true queen during the interaction leaving her opponent stunned. During every encounter, she constantly examined and picked only alliances that favored her people.
The Reign of Njinga
In 1626, she became Queen and ruled her people after her brother gave up the seat due to pressure. It is rumored that he later committed suicide. She embarked on a 30-year war with Portuguese forces over Angola. Regardless of the numerous assassination attempts on her life, she died an old woman in a peaceful sleep in 1663 at the age of 82. A statue was installed to reverence the queen, it’s at the square Kinixixi in Angola with her name spelt "Mwene Njinga Mbande. Some Angolan women are often married near the statue, especially on Thursdays and Fridays and it is a great tourist spot.
The Name “Nzinga” VS “Njinga”
Though there’s been quite a lot of confusion when it comes to her name, whether it was spelt “Nzinga”, “Jinga; Nzinga”, “Singa; Zinga” or Zhinga. It is said, in manuscripts she sent around or back and forth she signed spelling her name in different various; Jinga, Ginga, Zinga, Zingua, Zhinga and Singa. The people of Kimbudu argue that it is spelt correctly as Njinga Mbandi with the “N” being silent.
The correct spelling in modern Kimbundu is “Njinga”. While she wrote a dozen letters and signing it of as “Jinga”, it is believed to be an orthodox way of spelling in Portuguese. In that orthodox Portuguese writing style “J” is made to sound like “Z”.
In the late 1800s, a modern orthography form of Kimbundu was introduced by Heli Chatelain where “G” was replaced by “J”. This format has now been widely accepted in Kimbundu translations since the 1900s which is why the statue at Kinixixi spells as “Njinga Mbande”.