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Nzinga of Matamba in a New Perspective

Joseph C. Miller
The Journal of African History
Vol. 16, No. 2 (1975), pp. 201-216
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/180812
Page Count: 16
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Nzinga of Matamba in a New Perspective
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Abstract

Nzinga of Matamba, the seventeenth-century African monarch known primarily for her enmity to the Portuguese in Angola, also faced hostility from her own Mbundu people and the opposition of neighbouring African rulers throughout her long career. Her sex disqualified her from many Mbundu political offices reserved for males, and her origins in the lineageless community at the Mbundu king's royal court made her an outsider in terms of the lineage politics of most Mbundu states. But she overcame these disadvantages by skilful manipulation of the aliens present on the Mbundu borders, Imbangala warrior bands, the Portuguese, and the Dutch, and dominated Mbundu politics and diplomacy until her death in 1663. The domestic forces arrayed against Nzinga triumphed after her death, expelling her chosen successors from the Matamba royal title and omitting her name from the oral traditions of the state. These hypotheses, while not susceptible to direct proof, seem probable on the basis of a re-reading of documentary sources in the light of ethnographic and oral historical evidence collected in 1969-1970.

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