As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, it is important to reflect on the stories of women who have shattered glass ceilings and left an indelible mark on history. One of such women is Ana de Sousa Nzinga, also known as Queen Nzinga Mbande, who was a 17th-century warrior queen of Angola. Her remarkable leadership and diplomatic skills earned her a place in history as a fearless defender of her people’s rights and dignity.
Born in 1583, Queen Nzinga was a member of the Ngola ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Ndongo, which is present-day Angola. Her leadership journey started when she accompanied her brother, the king, to a meeting with Portuguese officials to negotiate a peace treaty. The Portuguese had been colonizing Angola since the 15th century, and the treaty was meant to regulate their trading and slavery activities.
However, during the negotiations, the Portuguese snubbed Queen Nzinga and only provided a small stool for her to sit on. In response, Queen Nzinga ordered one of her maids to kneel on all fours so she could sit on her back. This display of defiance and dignity marked the beginning of her journey to becoming a warrior queen.
Queen Nzinga was an expert in diplomacy and warfare, and she used both skills to protect her people from Portuguese aggression. She formed alliances with neighboring kingdoms and European powers, including the Dutch, to wage war against the Portuguese. In one of her most famous battles, she disguised herself as a man and led her army to victory against the Portuguese in Matamba.
Queen Nzinga was also an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. She abolished the practice of forced marriages and made it a law that any woman who was unhappy with her husband could leave him without any repercussions. She also encouraged women to participate in decision-making processes and appointed them as advisors and soldiers in her army.
Queen Nzinga’s legacy as a warrior queen and advocate for women’s rights has endured for centuries. Her life story has inspired numerous books, plays, and movies, including the recent Marvel movie, Black Panther, which drew inspiration from her leadership style and the kingdom she ruled. Her statue stands tall in Luanda, Angola’s capital city, as a symbol of her bravery and resilience.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is important to remember women like Queen Nzinga, who fought against all odds to make a difference in their communities. Her story is a testament to the fact that women have always been at the forefront of history-making and that their contributions should be recognized and celebrated. Queen Nzinga’s legacy continues to inspire African women to break down barriers and to lead with courage and grace.
Ana de Sousa Nzinga was more than a queen; she was a legend, a trailblazer, and a visionary. Her legacy continues to live on, inspiring generations of women to follow in her footsteps and make a difference in the world. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us remember Queen Nzinga’s courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment to justice and equality.