PRE-COLONIAL AFRICAN KINGDOM OF KONGO: ONCE A GREAT COLOSUS
Kingdom of Kongo also known as Kongo dya Ntotila or Wene wa Kongois ranks among the most famous kingdoms in sub-Saharan Africa. The kingdom located in southwest Africa. It is now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The empire consisted of six provinces ruled by a monarch, the Manikongo of the Bakongo (Kongo peoples).
BANZA KONGO , Capital of the Kingdom of Kongo
At its greatest extent, it reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Kwango River in the east, and from the Congo River in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The kingdom consisted of several core provinces ruled by the Manikongo, the Portuguese version of the Kongo title 'Mwene Kongo', meaning lord or ruler of the Kongo kingdom, but its sphere of influence extended to neighbouring kingdoms, such as Ngoyo, Kakongo, Ndongo and Matamba.
Map of Kingdom of Kongo
When the leader of the first Portuguese expedition, the navigator Diogo Cao, landed in 1483 in the Zaïre estuary, he was astonished to discover the existence of a centralised political state, an African replica of the Portuguese kingdom (Vansina 1966; Randles 1968; Ekholm 1972). The Portuguese first dealt with this kingdom accordingly, on a more or less equal basis, exchanging ambassadors.
Portuguese audience bowing before the King of Kongo
The king of Kongo was baptised in 1491 by the Portuguese who gave him the name of their king, Joao. Under his successor, Afonso, Christianity spread even further throughout the kingdom. However, instead of becoming a religion of the masses, it was adopted by a small ruling elite who made it a royal cult, reinforcing their political authority. One of Afonso’s sons was even ordained a bishop as early as 1518, the first black bishop ever.
Capuchin Missionary and his Entourage being Greeted in Front of Village, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986)
The missionaries, who were mainly Jesuits and Capucins, the traders and officials, left behind a vivid description of the development of the kingdom which permitted a detailed reconstruction of the daily lives of its inhabitants at a time when their civilization was at its peak (Balandier 1965). Their highly centralized political structure allowed them to rule over an area of 150,000 km2, almost the size of Uganda, stretching south of the Zaïre estuary. They acquired a mastery of metallurgy, law, weaving and textiles. The art of the Kongo remains, even today, one of the most elaborate in Africa, making use of wood, cloth, terra cotta
and even stones. Kongo not only survived contact with the Portuguese but continued expansion and development into a centralized state until the start of the civil wars in the late seventeenth century (Thorton 1979; Thorton 1983; Hilton 1985). The memory of this magnificent kingdom which proclaimed very early the achievements of black men, is still present in the minds of many intellectuals and leaders of Africa today.
The Kingdom of Kongo (1400– 1914)
Origin of Kongo Kingdom
From 500 B.C.E, some Bantu-speaking people began migrating south and east from a region south of the Sahara near the present-day Cameron. By 500 B.C.E, the Bantu population were firmly established in the savanna region near Congo (formerly Zaire) River in what is today known as northern Angola. There they cultivated the land using the iron-technology they brought, raise animals, made iron tools and weapons to conquer the indigenous San people (Bushmen), and developed a complex social and political systems.
The Kingdom of Kongo was formed around 1375. Traditions collected in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries attribute the foundation of the kingdom to a mythical hero Ntinu Lukeni (circa 1380-1420) who, coming from the north, crossed the Zaïre river and conquered the area south of it. According to Historian Jean Cuvelier "Lukeni lua Nimi or Nimi a Lukeni, became the founder of Kongo when he conquered the kingdom of the Mwene Kabunga (or Mwene Mpangala), which lay upon a mountain to his south, after crossing Nzadi from his father's kingdom on the north bank, the historical kingdom of Vungu. The original inhabitants of the area were large-headed dwarfs called BaMbakambaka, Mbwidi-Mbodila, and BaFula Mengo. He transferred his rule to this mountain, the Mongo dia Kongo or "mountain of Kongo", and made Mbanza Kongo, the town there, his capital. Two centuries later the Mwene Kabunga's descendants still symbolically challenged the conquest in an annual celebration. The rulers that followed Lukeni all claimed some form of relation to his kanda or lineage and were known as the Kilukeni. The Kilukeni kanda or "house" as recorded in Portuguese documents would rule Kongo unopposed until 1567." The king of Kongo thereafter was the embodiment of the cosmological world of the Bakongo, he had direct links with the forces that affected its prosperity, he controlled the weather, he could summon the dead, and he was able to bless his subjects with a movement of his fingers.
After the death of Nimi a Lukeni, his brother, Mbokani Mavinga, took over the throne and ruled until approximately 1367. He had two wives and nine children. His rule saw an expansion of the Kingdom of Kongo to include the neighbouring state of Loango and other areas now encompassed by the current Republic of Congo.
The Mwene Kongos often gave the governorships to members of their family or its clients. As this centralization increased, the allied provinces gradually lost influence until their powers were only symbolic, manifested in Mbata, once a co-kingdom, but by 1620 simply known by the title "Grandfather of the King of Kongo" (Nkaka'ndi a Mwene Kongo).
Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609)
The Portuguese first arrived in Kongo in 1485, and were regarded as visitors from the land of the dead. Nzinga Nkuwu, king of the Bakongo was baptised in 1491, and while he gave up Christianity two or three years later, his son Afonso, persisted in the faith. During the 16th Century efforts to convert all the Bakongo continued through the work of the Jesuits.
Capuchin Missionary Entering Village, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986)
From the end of the 'old kingdom' in 1678, to the arrival of the colonial administration, the slave trade and a free sense of trade between Africans and Europeans dominated the costal region and certainly influenced the future developments in Kongo society.
The geographic context
The coastal zone of the kingdom was sparsely populated with a concentration of settlements in the river valleys to the south where rainfall was poor and irregular, and on the hills near the Zaïre river where the best water and also the most productive part of that zone was to be found. The zone incorporated the provinces of Sonyo near the estuary and of Mbamba further south.
About 100 km inland to the east is a more hospitable hilly area, rising to a ridge over 1000 m high and with an annual rainfall above 1000 mm. Most of the soils were relatively fertile, temperatures moderate, the vegetation being a mixture of savannahs and woodlands. This zone was densely populated, especially in the north eastern part which contained the provinces of Nsundi, Mpangu and Mbata. The provinces of Mpemba, Wembo and Wandu were also located in this zone. Further east, stretches the vast Kalahari sands plateau, infertile and very sparselypopulated, which was drawn into the kingdom in the sixteenth century (Hilton 1985, pp. 1–5). Hilton (1985, pp. 7–8) gives a good summary of the settlement pattern:
"The people’s primary economic activities – long fallow agriculture and arboriculture
supplemented by animal husbandry, hunting, and collecting – determined that
settlement was normally dispersed. The village, libata, which were descent based,
were very small, probably counting no more than thirty houses. There were also
innumerable dispersed hamlets called ki-belo, a term which indicated that a lineage
segment had established a settlement or worked a field. The towns, called mbanza,
which evolved as a result of trade, refugee settlement or concentrations of power,
were essentially areas of denser settlement on the same pattern with small settlements
interspersed with cultivated fields.
The overall population density was probably not high – perhaps fewer than four
persons per square kilometre in the mid-seventeenth century and the land teemed with
wild and often dangerous animals."
Each province of the kingdom had a capital named after it, thus Mbanza Sundi for the province of
Sundi. According to Hilton (1985, p. 34):
"The governors established their capitals in the most fertile parts of the provinces.
Mbanza Sonyo, for example, was located in the Zaïre estuary in the northwest. This
was the best watered and the most populous part of a generally arid province. Mbanza
Mbamba, which governed an even less hospitable region, was located in the wetter,
northern part of the province in a fertile region south of the River Mbrije. The capital
of the central province of Mpemba was strategically located away from Mbanza
Kongo at its southern extremity in a fertile region on the River Loje. The eastern
capitals, Mbanzas, Nsundi, Mpangu and Mbata were all located in the fertile Nkisi
Valley near the eastern frontier of the kingdom."
One should note that the name ‘Mbanza’ derives from a proto-Bantu root, banja, which probably originally meant ‘ground made ready for building’, which evolved into courtyard,building site and in the Bantu linguistic zone H, among the Kongo, ‘important village where the chief lives’, ‘main village’, ‘town’, or even ‘cemetery’ (Grégoire 1976).
Kongo man in loin cloth. This 1786 engraving gives an exact description of their clothing . . . their loincloth is made from 'macout' a local term meaning fabric made from straw. With the advent of trade with Europeans, the loincloth came to be made of various fabrics, including linen, cotton, silk, or even velvet. They are excessively decorated with red coral, the ultimate luxury . . . Rich people wear a long silver chain that fits low around their waist. But out of their apparel, the most important is a fur pelt with groups of small bells that they wear near their 'natural parts'; it is what they call their 'canda'. This means skin. This part of their clothing is their seal of honor" (pp. 70-72;).
The Portuguese and Christianity
In 1483, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão sailed up the uncharted Congo River, finding Kongo villages and becoming the first European to encounter the Kongo kingdom. During his visit, Cão left his men in Kongo while taking Kongo nobles and bringing them to Portugal. He returned with the Kongo nobles in 1485. At that point the ruling king, Nzinga a Nkuwu, converted to Christianity. Cão returned to the kingdom with Roman Catholic priests and soldiers in 1491, baptizing Nzinga a Nkuwu as well as his principal nobles, starting with the ruler of Soyo, the coastal province. At the same time a literate Kongo citizen returning from Portugal opened the first school. Nzinga a Nkuwu took the name of João I in honor of Portugal's king at the time, João II.
King Joao I of the Kingdom of kongo
João I ruled until his death around 1506 and was succeeded by his son Afonso Mvemba a Nzinga. He faced a serious challenge from a half brother, Mpanzu a Kitima. The king overcame his brother in a battle waged at Mbanza Kongo. According to Afonso's own account, sent to Portugal in 1506, he was able to win the battle thanks to the intervention of a heavenly vision of Saint James and the Virgin Mary. Inspired by these events, he subsequently designed a coat of arms for Kongo that was used by all following kings on official documents, royal paraphernalia and the like until 1860. While King João I later reverted to his traditional beliefs, Afonso I established Christianity as the state religion of his kingdom.
King Afonso I worked to create a viable version of the Roman Catholic Church in Kongo, providing for its income from royal assets and taxation that provided salaries for its workers. Along with advisers from Portugal such as Rui d'Aguiar, the Portuguese royal chaplain sent to assist Kongo's religious development, Afonso created a syncretic version of Christianity that would remain a part of its culture for the rest of the kingdom's independent existence. King Afonso himself studied hard at this task. Rui d'Aguir once said Afonso I knew more of the church's tenets than he did.
The Kongo church was always short of ordained clergy, and made up for it by the employment of a strong laity. Kongolese school teachers or Mestres were the anchor of this system. Recruited from the nobility and trained in the kingdom's schools, they provided religious instruction and services to others building upon Kongo's growing Christian population. At the same time, they permitted the growth of syncretic forms of Christianity which incorporated older religious ideas with Christian ones.
Examples of this are the introduction of KiKongo words to translate Christian concepts. The KiKongo words ukisi (an abstract word meaning charm, but used to mean "holy") and nkanda (meaning book) were merged so that the Christian Bible became known as the nkanda ukisi. The church became known as the nzo a ukisi. While some European clergy often denounced these mixed traditions, they were never able to root them out.
Catholic Priest Burning Idol House, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986)
Part of the establishment of this church was the creation of a strong priesthood and to this end Afonso's son Henrique was sent to Europe to be educated. Henrique became an ordained priest and in 1518 was named as bishop of Utica (a North African diocese in the hands of Muslims). He returned to Kongo in the early 1520s to run Kongo's new church. He died in 1531 as he was about to go to Europe for the Council of Trent.
Capuchin Missionary Witnessing a Tournament, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986)
EUROPEAN (PORTUGUESE) DESCRIPTION OF MBANZA KONGO
The spatial organization of Mbanza Kongo
Mbanza Kongo is situated on a rocky hill which rises 559 meters, overlooking the surroundings, the summit being a plateau seven km. in length. From the top, one has a sweeping view. Because of its location, the Portuguese called it Outeiro, which means ‘height’. But the inhabitants called it Mbanza Kongo, the city of Kongo, Mbanza Kongo dia Ntotelo, the Kongo city of the king; Kongo dia Wene, Kongo of the founder or Kongo of authority; Kongo dia Ngunga, Kongo of the bell, which referred to the many churches built in the royal city.
BANZA KONGO , Capital of the Kingdom of Kongo
The founder chose this location because it offered the dual advantage of an almost central position in the kingdom and a natural defence against enemy attack. Furthermore, on the plateau, according to Pigafetta (1591, Vol. I, p. 39), is the soil ‘fertile, the air fresh, healthy and pure; there are many springs of drinkable water which never hurts one’s health, in any season’. The abundance, the exceptional purity of the water and the fertility of the land also struck a German traveller, Bastian (1859, pp. 123–5), in the nineteenth century. In O. Dapper’s book (1668), there is an etching drawn from memory which shows the capital erected on top of a cliff overlooking the Lunda river and the narrow valley.
Early in the eighteenth century, Laurent de Lucques again recognized the quality of the city: ‘This city occupies the best location in the kingdom, on very beautiful hills. Thanks to its altitude, the air is mild ... The population lived in opulence because this was the metropolis of the vast kingdom where the riches of the provinces were flowing’ (Cuvelier 1953, p. 257).
When the first Portuguese ambassador reached Mbanza Kongo in 1491, 7 years before reaching Mombasa, the city was already quite spread out, according to Cuvelier (1946, pp. 72–4) who gives us a detailed description:
"The streets were not aligned, nor the houses in the ancient Kongo kingdom, no
avenues lined with palms nor ornamental trees. Narrow paths were running in all
directions through the tall grass. The living quarters of the most important people
were located close to the king’s quarters. Spread out, according to their taste or their
fancy, they occupied sometimes quite a considerable space. The houses were made of
straw without any ornaments, except inside, where there would be a palm cloth
hanging on the wall, representing an antelope or an other animal. The houses of the
important people could be distinguished from those of the simple ones, because they
were larger and had more painted palm cloths. The houses were surrounded by a fence
made from very strong trees: the mingienge with juicy fruits like prunes, mpesempese, African poplars, cactus (diiza) with a sap which could poison spearheads and
war knives. Toward the north, the mountain was crowned with dark woods, a sacred
place where the noise of a hatchet was never heard. Palms, baobabs and many trees
stood there and this was where the ancient kings were buried. The founder of the
kingdom of Ntinu Wene was buried there. To the south, there was a large courtyard
called Mbazi ou Mbazi Nkanu, the court of justice, because there, under a huge wild
fig tree ... which shaded a corner of the place, the kings used to administer justice. It
was a large open space where crowds would gather to receive the king’s blessing, to
watch dances and triumphal parades.
Not far from this public place was the king’s residence or enclosure, which was
called lumbu by the natives. This enclosure was more than one thousand meters in
circumference and was made of pales tied together with lianas ...
At the gates, mavitu were standing the royal guards and some horn blowers. Inside the
fence, there was a courtyard; then one could see another fence, in the middle of which
was the king’s house. One could only reach it through a labyrinth. The only difference
between this and the other houses, was that this one was more spacious. Inside the
royal enclosure, the queen had her residence surrounded by huts with her followers
who accompanied her when she left the enclosure."
16th century cathedral (built in 1549), which many Angolans claim is the oldest church in sub-Saharan Africa. (The church, known locally as nkulumbimbi, is now said to have been built by angels overnight. It was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1596. Pope John Paul II visited the site during his tour of Angola in 1992.)
This description shows well that this urban centre resembled many big villages in central Africa with living quarters spread out and surrounded by hedges and gardens. The layout of the capital was probably not very different from the provincial centre, the clustering of the population resulting essentially from the presence of the king or an important chief. The mbanza political centers exist only in relation to the holder of power and their evolution is linked. Built of earth, wood, straw and palms, these cities were fragile and their rise and fall was linked to the person who exercised the power. As elsewhere in central Africa, this type of centre gravitates around the king’s or the governor’s compound with their households, the courtyard and the sacred woods often used as a cemetery for the ancestors’ graves. Those different elements put into space the sacred king, a sort of symbolic mechanism which mediates between nature and culture. From this symbolic nucleus, the urban centre spreads and stretches following the evocative image of Balandier (1965, p. 141). The resulting settlement is a city, if one considers the number of people and a village, even if out of proportion, if one considers its aspect and structure.
Female Clothing, Angola, 1786 87 Louis de Grandpre, Voyage a la cote occidentale dAfrique, fait dans les annees 1786 et 1787 (Paris, 1801)
At the end of the sixteenth century, using information provided by Duarte Lopez, Pigafetta (1591, Vol. II, p. 40) described Mbanza Kongo, as it was modified by the Portuguese influence.
"The town is erected in the corner of this summit, facing south. Dom Afonso, the first
christian king surrounded it by walls. He assigned to the Portuguese a distinct area
also surrounded by walls. He also enclosed his palace and the royal house, leaving in
between those two enclosures a large open space where the principal church was
erected. In front of it is a square. The doors, both of the nobles’ residences and of the
Portuguese houses, opened on the church side. At the entrance of the main square,
some noblemen from the court have their household. Behind the church, the square
leads to a narrow street with a door. If one exits through it one finds many houses on
the east side. Outside the walls which surround the king’s household and the
Portuguese city, many constructions belonging to various noblemen each one
occupying, without any order, the place he likes, so as to live close to the court. So it
is not possible to estimate the size of this city outside of the two enclosures, as all the
countryside is scattered with rural houses and palaces. Each nobleman, in his
compound, is walled in like a village. The perimeter of the Portuguese city measures
almost a mile, the one of the royal quarters almost the same. The walls are very thick.
At night, the gates are not closed and not even guarded."
Clothing Styles, Kingdom of Loango, late 17th cent D O Dapper, Description de l Afrique (Amsterdam,1686)
According to another testimony from the end of the sixteenth century: ‘In the capital San Salvador, there is more than one hundred Portuguese merchants and more than a thousand others born in Portugal. Their houses are in an area of the city separated from the blacks.’ (Cuvelier & Jadin 1954, p. 137)
So, as early as the end of the sixteenth century, Mbanza Kongo had the look of a colonial city, with two cities co-existing: the European city, built to last, commercial, with six or seven churches, an Episcopalian see, students and the indigenous city, a sort of fragile ‘village-city’ which had grown like a giant village much in the same way the African suburbs around modern African towns.
Even if there is a correlation between the development of the Kongo political organization and the birth of elementary urban civilization as noted by Balandier (1965, p. 140), one must admit that we do not have here an urban tradition similar to those of the old West African cities, probably due to the materials used for building and to the lack of a monumental architectural tradition. In l687, Dapper (1668, p. 343) published a reconstructed view of Mbanza Kongo and described the city:
"The summit of the mountain is occupied by houses built close to each other. The
persons of quality own most of them and erect walled-in buildings which resemble a
little city. The houses of the ordinary people are lined up following various streets.
They are rather big but their walls are made only of straw except for some of them
which are made by the Portuguese in beaten earth with a thatched roof. The king’s
palace is as big as an ordinary city."
Funeral, Angola, 1786 87 Louis de Grandpre, Voyage a la cote occidentale dAfrique, fait dans les annees 1786 et 1787 (Paris, 1801)
It is enclosed by four walls, one overlooking the Portuguese quarter, is made of lime and stone; the others are made of straw, but very neatly done. The walls of the interior rooms are decorated with woven straw tapestries. In the interior enclosure of the Palace, there are gardens and groves with beautiful bowers and pavilions, exquisite for this country, although in fact it is not very much. There are ten or twelve churches, the Cathedral, seven chapels in the city and three churches in the Prince’s palace. There is also a Jesuit convent where three or four of these fathers teach catechism every day to the people, and schools where Latin and Portuguese are taught.
There are two fountains, one in Saint James street and another in the Palace courtyard, which give an abundance of fresh water, even without having to re-do or maintain the aqueducts. Furthermore, there is a branch of the Lelunde river, called Vefe which exits at the bottom of the mountain east of the city; its water is very good, the people draw from it and use it to water and fertilize the surrounding countryside. There are pigs and goats, but few sheep and cows; the animals are closed up at night in pens which are inside the city near the houses.
Estimates of the population of Mbanza Kongo given by various authors vary. At the end of the sixteenth century, Pigafetta (1591, Vol. II, § 1) said that more than 100,000 people lived there and this is probably exaggerated. An anonymous text dated 1595 talks about 10,000 fires (Brasio 1954, Vol. III, pp. 500–4). At the same period, Carmelite missionaries mentioned 30,000 inhabitants in the capital. Around 1604, the dean of the cathedral counted 2000 households. (Balandier 1965, p. 140). Later, in the second half of the seventeenth century, Dapper (1668, p. 343) estimated the population at 40,000 inhabitants. At the same period, Cavazzi (1687) stated that the capital could hold 60,000 people during peace time. (Labat 1732, Vol. I, p. 212 after Cavazzi 1687).
Outside of the Kongo Kingdom, north of the Zaire River, Dapper (1668, pp. 320-1) visited the city of Loango. He left us with a remarkable illustration of this seventeenth century city, also called Mbanza Louangiri or Bwali, now in the Congo Republic (Hagenbucher-Sacripanti 1973, p. 69). According to him: ‘this city was almost the same size as Rouen, but the buildings did not touch each other’.
The universal currency in Kongo and just about all of Central Africa was shell money known locally as nzimbu. One hundred nzimbu could purchase a hen; 300 a garden hoe and 2000 a goat. Slaves, which were always a part of Kongo's economy but increased in trade after contact with Portugal were also bought in nzimbu. A female slave could be purchased (or sold) for 20,000 nzimbu and male slave for 30,000. Nzimbu shells were fished from island of Luanda and kept as a royal monopoly. The smaller shells were filtered out so that only the large shells entered the marketplace as currency. The Kongo would not trade for gold or silver, but nzimbu shells, often put in pots in special increments, could buy anything. Kongo's "money pots" held increments of 40, 100, 250, 400, 500. For especially large purchases, there were standardized units such as a funda (1,000 big shells), Lufuku (10,000 big shells) and a kofo (20,000 big shells).
The Kongo administration regarded their land as renda, revenue assignments. The Kongo government exacted a monetary head tax for each villager, which may well have been paid in kind as well, forming the basis for the kingdom's finances. The king granted titles and income, based on this head tax. Holders reported annually to the court of their superior for evaluation and renewal.
17th century painting of the dutch painter Albert Eckhout showing two emissaries of the Kingdom of Kongo in Brazil holding the two main sources of wealth in west africa, an ivory tusk and a jewel box.
Provincial governors paid a portion of the tax returns from their provinces to the king. Dutch visitors to Kongo in the 1640s reported this income as twenty million nzimbu shells. In addition, the crown collected its own special taxes and levies, including tolls on the substantial trade that passed through the kingdom, especially the lucrative cloth trade between the great cloth producing region of the "Seven Kingdoms of Kongo dia Nlaza," the eastern regions, called "Momboares" or "The Seven" in Kikongo, and the coast, especially the Portuguese colony of Luanda.
Crown revenues supported the church, paid by revenue assignments based on royal income. For example, Pedro II (1622–1624)detailed the finances of his royal chapel by specifying that revenues from various estates and provincial incomes would support it. Baptismal and burial fees also supported local churches.
When King Garcia II of Kongo|Garcia II gave up the island of Luanda and its royal fisheries to the Portuguese in 1651, he switched the kingdom's currency to raffia cloth. The cloth was "napkin-sized" and called mpusu. In the 17th century, 100 mpusu could buy one slave implying a value greater than that of the nzimbu currency.
A Covered Litter, Kingdom of Kongo, late 17th cent D O Dapper, Description de l Afrique (Amsterdam,1686)
The vata village, referred to as libata in Kongo documents and by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, served as Kongo's basic social unit after the family. Nkuluntu, or mocolunto to the Portuguese, chiefs headed the villages. The one to two hundred citizens per village migrated about every ten years to accommodate soil exhaustion. Communal land-ownership and collective farms produced harvests divided by families according to the number of people per household. The nkuluntu received special premium from the harvest before the division.
Villages were grouped in wene, small states, led by awene (plural of mwene) or mani to the Portuguese. Awene lived in mbanza, larger villages or small towns of somewhere between 1,000 to 5,000 citizens. Higher nobility typically chose these leaders. The king also appointed lower-level officials to serve, typically for three-year terms, by assisting him in patronage.
Capuchin Missionary being Greeted by Village Head, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986)
Various provinces made up Kongo's higher administrative divisions, with some of the larger and more complex states, such as Mbamba, divided into varying numbers of sub-provinces, which the administration further subdivided. The king appointed the Mwene Mbamba, the Duke of Mbamba after the 1590s. The king technically had the power to dismiss the Mwene Mbamba, but the complex political situation limited the king's exercise of his power. When the administration gave out European-style titles, large districts like Mbamba and Nsundi typically became Duchies. The administration made smaller ones, such as Mpemba, Mpangu or a host of territories north of the capital), Marquisates. Soyo, a complex province on the coast, became a "Country," as did Nkusu, a smaller and less complex state east of the capital.
Court of Luango
Hereditary families controlled a few provinces, most notably the Duchy of Mbata and Country of Nkusu, through their positions as officers appointed by the king. In the case of Mbata, the kingdom's origin as an alliance produced this power, exercised by the Nsaku Lau. In the seventeenth century, political maneuvering also caused some provinces, notably Soyo, but occasionally Mbamba, to be held for very long terms by the same person. Provincial governments still paid income to the crown and their rulers reported to the capital to give account.
The kingdom of Kongo was made up of a large number of provinces. Various sources list from six to fifteen as the principal ones. Duarte Lopes' description, based on his experience there in the late sixteenth century, identified six provinces as the most important. These were Nsundi in the northeast, Mpangu in the center, Mbata in the southeast, Soyo in the southwest and two southern provinces of Mbamba and Mpemba.
The king of Kongo also held several kingdoms in at least nominal vassalage. These included the kingdoms of Kakongo, Ngoyo and Vungu to the north of Kongo. The royal titles, first elaborated by Afonso in 1512, styled the ruler as "King of Kongo and Lord of the Mbundus" and later titles listed a number of other countries over which he also ruled as "king". The Mbundu kingdoms included Ndongo (sometimes erroneously mentioned as "Angola"), Kisama and Matamba. All of these kingdoms were south of Kongo and much farther from the king's cultural influence than the northern kingdoms. Still later eastern kingdoms such as Kongo dia Nlaza were named in the ruler's titles as well.
Senior officials chose the Mwene Kongo or king who served for life following their choice. Electors varied over time, and there was probably never a completely fixed list; rather, senior officials who exercised power did so. Mbata was often held to be an elector because of the original constitutional position that province held. The ruler of Vunda, whose lands lay near Mbanza Kongo, was also often named as an elector and certainly played a role in the coronation ceremonies. The ruler of Soyo also cast a vote in the election. Many kings tried to choose their successor, not always successfully. One of the central problems of Kongo history was the succession of power, and as a result the country was disturbed by many rebellions and revolts.
The kingdom's army consisted of a mass levy of archers, drawn from the general male population, and a smaller corps of heavy infantry, who fought with swords and carried shields for protection. Portuguese documents typically referred to heavy infantry, considered nobles, as fidalgos in documents. The bearing of a shield was also important, as Portuguese documents usually call the heavy infantry adagueiros (shield bearers). There is weak evidence to suggest revenue assignments paid and supported them. A large number, perhaps as many as 20,000, stayed in the capital. Smaller contingents lived in the major provinces under the command of provincial rulers.
After 1600, civil war became far more common than inter-state warfare. The government instituted a draft for the entire population during wartime, but only a limited number actually served. Many who did not carry arms instead carried baggage and supplies. Thousands of women supported armies on the move. Administrators expected soldiers to have two weeks' worth of food upon reporting for campaign duty. Logistical difficulties probably limited both the size of armies and their capacity to operate for extended periods. Some Portuguese sources suggested that the king of Kongo fielded armies as large as 70,000 soldiers for a 1665 Battle of Mbwila, but it is unlikely that armies larger than 20–30,000 troops could be raised for military campaigns.
Troops were mobilized and reviewed on Saint James' Day, 25 July, when taxes were also collected. Subjects celebrated this day in honor of Saint James and Afonso I, whose miraculous victory over his brother in 1509 was the principal significance of the holiday in the Kongo.
When the Portuguese arrived in Kongo they were immediately added as a mercenary force, probably under their own commander, and used special-purpose weapons, like crossbows and muskets, to add force to the normal Kongo order of battle. Their initial impact was muted; Afonso complained in a letter of 1514 that they had not been very effective in a war he waged against Munza, a Mbundu rebel, the year before. By the 1580s, however, a musketeer corps, which was locally raised from resident Portuguese and their Kongo-mestiço (mixed race) offspring, was a regular part of the main Kongo army in the capital. Provincial armies had some musketeers; for example they served against the Portuguese invading army in 1622. Three hundred and sixty musketeers served in the Kongo army against the Portuguese at the Battle of Mbwila.
Nzambi Kalunga or Nzambi Mpungu Tulendo was the main God of the Kongo Kingdom. The people believed that he/she is the creator and the ultimate source of power (he is the supreme being and is thought to be omnipotent). They also believed in lesser spirits and matrilineal ancestors buried on their land are constant sources of life and well-being as well as on fertility and the continuity of the community. It was their belief that lesser gods and ancestral spirit mediate between humanity and the supreme being and that evil, disorder, and injustice are the result of such base human motives as greed, envy, or maliciousness.
The religion relied on Tax collection to protect against illness and disasters from angry gods. The king was heavily involved in the religion and was named the nzambi mpungu (superior spirit). Although they adored him, they did not believe that he could deal with disease, death, and famine with without a help from their gods.
The Kongo believe in a cosmos divided in two, 'this world' (nza yayi) and 'the land of the dead' (nsi a bafwa). The two worlds are divided by a body of water, traditionally called Kalunga, and also known as nlangu (water), m'bu (ocean), or nzadi (great river). Life in that sense is a cyclical and repetitive movement between the two worlds mentioned above, resembling the path of the sun. At the rising and setting of the sun then, the living and the dead exchange day and night.
In Kongo belief, man's life does not end, it constitutes a cycle, and death is merely a transition in the process of change. Following that belief, a man's soul does not dwell in the grave after his death but leaves it to become a ghost (n'kuyu) in the land of the dead, which is called ku mpemba a fula.
The sun constitutes a daily important symbol in Kongo life, because it is a sign of the constant cycle of life, so that at the rising and setting of the sun the living and the dead exchange day and night. The setting of the sun symbolizes man's death and its rising his rebirth, or the continuity of his life. Rising = beginning, birth, regrowth; ascendancy = maturity, responsibility; setting = handing on, death, transformation; midnight = existence in the other world, eventual birth. The sun therefore ultimately symbolizes the path of the soul.
Art of the Kongo Kingdom
The Kongo peoples are divided into many subgroups including the Yombe, Vili, Beembe, Sundi, and others but share a common language, Kikongo. These groups have many cultural similarities, including that they all produce a huge range of sculptural art. The most notable feature of this region’s figurative style is the relative naturalism of the representation of both humans and animals. "The musculature of face and body is carefully rendered, and great attention is paid to items of personal adornment and scarification. Much of the region’s art was produced for social and political leaders such as the Kongo king."
Slavery and royal rivalries
In the following decades, the Kingdom of Kongo became a major source of slaves for Portuguese traders and other European powers. The Cantino Atlas of 1502 mentions Kongo as a source of slaves for the island of São Tomé. Slavery had existed in Kongo long before the arrival of the Portuguese, and Afonso's early letters show the evidence of slave markets. They also show the purchase and sale of slaves within the country and his accounts on capturing slaves in war which were given and sold to Portuguese merchants. It is likely that most of the slaves exported to the Portuguese were war captives from Kongo's campaigns of expansion. In addition, the slaving wars helped Afonso consolidate his power in southern and eastern border regions.
A common characteristic of political life in the kingdom of Kongo was a fierce competition over succession to the throne. Afonso's own contest for the throne was intense, though little is known about it. However, a great deal is known about how such struggles took place from the contest that followed Afonso's death in late 1542 or early 1543. This is in large part due to detailed inquest conducted by royal officials in 1550, which survives in the Portuguese archives. In this inquest one can see that factions formed behind prominent men, such as Afonso I's son, Pedro Nkanga a Mvemba and Diogo Nkumbi a Mpudi, his grandson who ultimately overthrew Pedro in 1545. Although the factions placed themselves in the idiom of kinship (using the Portuguese term geração or lineage, probably kanda in Kikongo) they were not formed strictly along heredity lines since close kin were often in separate factions. The players included nobles holding appointive titles to provincial governorships, members of the royal council and also officials in the now well developed Church hierarchy.
King Diogo I skillfully replaced or outmaneuvered his entrenched competitors after he was crowned in 1545. He faced a major conspiracy led by Pedro I, who had taken refuge in a church, and whom Diogo in respect of the Church's rule of asylum allowed to continue in the church. However, Diogo did conduct an inquiry into the plot, the text of which was sent to Portugal in 1552 and gives us an excellent idea of the way in which plotters hoped to overthrow the king by enticing his supporters to abandon him.
Problems also arose between Diogo and the Portuguese settlers at Sao Tome known as Tomistas. According to a treaty between Kongo and Portugal, the former were only to trade within the latter's realm for slaves. That meant the Portuguese were restricted to the slaves offered by King Diogo or those he authorized to sell slaves. Every year the Tomistas would come with 12 to 15 ships to carry back between 400 and 700 slaves (5000-10000 slaves a year). This was not enough to take advantage of Kongo's ever-growing supply of slaves thanks to wars on its eastern frontier. The captains would try to overload their cargos, resulting in revolts. However, the factor that actually broke the deal was the Tomista habit of sailing upriver to the Malebo Pool to purchase slaves from BaTeke traders who were increasingly taken with European goods over the nzimbu shells the manikongo offered them. Enraged by this breach of contract, King Diogo broke off relations in 1555 and expelled 70 or so Portuguese living in his realm (many of whom had lived there for a long time with African wives and mixed-race children).
The king's attempt at pacifying the restless kingdom of Ndongo in 1556 backfired resulting in the latter's independence. Despite this setback, he would enjoy a long reign that ended with his death in 1561.
King Diogo's successor, whose name is lost to history, was killed by the Portuguese and replaced with a bastard son who was more pliant to Tomista interests Afonso II. The common people of Kongo were enraged at his enthronement and responded with riots throughout the kingdom. Many Portuguese were killed, and the royal port of Mpinda was closed to the Portuguese effectively ending the slave trade between Kongo and Portugal. Less than a year into this chaos, King Afonso II was murdered while attending mass by his brother, the next manikongo, Bernardo I. King Bernardo allowed the boycott of Portuguese trade to continue while quietly reestablishing relations with Lisbon. King Bernardo I was killed warring against the Yaka in 1567. The next manikongo, Henrique I was drawn into a war in the eastern part of the country where he was killed, leaving the government in the hands of his stepson Álvaro Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba. He was crowned as Álvaro I, "by common consent" according to some witnesses.
Kongo under the House of Kwilu
Álvaro I came to the throne during another contest over the throne in 1568. Being from the Kwilu river valley and not a blood relative of any of the previous kings, his reign marked the beginning of the House of Kwilu. There were certainly factions that opposed him, though it is not known specifically who they were. Álvaro immediately had to fight invaders from the east (who some authorities believe were actually rebels within the country, either peasants or discontented nobles from rival factions) called the Jagas. To do this, he decided to enlist the aid of the Portuguese based at São Tomé, who sent an expedition under Francisco de Gouveia Sottomaior to assist. As a part of the same process, Álvaro agreed to allow the Portuguese to establish a colony in his province of Luanda south of his kingdom. In addition to allowing the Portuguese to establish themselves in Luanda, Kongo provided the Portuguese with support in their war against the Kingdom of Ndongo in 1579. The kingdom of Ndongo was located inland east of Luanda and although claimed in Kongo's royal titles as early as 1535 was probably never under a firm Kongo administration.
Álvaro also worked hard to westernize Kongo, gradually introducing European style titles for his nobles, so that the Mwene Nsundi became the Duke of Nsundi; the Mwene Mbamba became the Duke of Mbamba or the Mwene Mpemba. The Mwene Mpemba became Marquis of Mpemba, and the Mwene Soyo became Count of Soyo. He and his son Álvaro II Nimi a Nkanga (crowned in 1587]) bestowed orders of chivalry called the Order of Christ. The capital was also renamed São Salvador or "Holy Savior" in Portuguese during this period. In 1596, Álvaro's emissaries to Rome persuaded the Pope to recognize São Salvador as the cathedral of a new diocese which would include Kongo and the Portuguese territory in Angola. However, the king of Portugal won the right to nominate the bishops to this see, which would be the source of tension between the two countries.
The Portuguese bishops throughout the kingdom were often favourable to European interests in a time when relations between Kongo and Angola were tense. They refused to appoint priests, forcing Kongo to rely more and more heavily on the laity. Documents of the time show that lay teachers (called mestres in Portuguese-language documents) were paid salaries and appointed by the crown, and at times Kongo kings withheld income and services to the bishops and their supporters (a tactic called "country excommunication"). Controlling revenue was vital for Kongo's kings since even Jesuit missionaries were paid salaries from the royal exchequer.
At the same time as this ecclesiastical problem developed, the governors of Angola began to extend their campaigns into areas that Kongo regarded as being firmly under their sovereignty. This included the region around Nambu a Ngongo, which Governor João Furtado attacked in the mid- 1590s. Other campaigns in the vicinity would lead to denunciations by the rulers of Kongo against this violation of their sovereignty.
Álvaro I and his successor, Álvaro II, also faced problems with factional rivals from families that had been displaced from succession. In order to raise support against some enemies, they had to make concessions to others. One of the most important of these concessions was allowing Manuel, the Count of Soyo, to hold office for many years beginning sometime before 1591. During this same period, Álvaro II made a similar concession to António da Silva, the Duke of Mbamba. António da Silva was strong enough that he decided the succession of the kingdom, selecting Bernardo II in 1614, but putting him aside in favor of Álvaro III in 1615. It was only with difficulty that Álvaro III was able to put his own choice in as Duke of Mbamba when António da Silva died in 1620 instead of having the province fall into the hands of the duke's son. At the same time, however, Álvaro III created another powerful and semi-independent nobleman in Manuel Jordão who held Nsundi for him.
Kongo under the House of Nsundi
Tensions between Portugal and Kongo increased further as the governors of Portuguese Angola became more aggressive. Luis Mendes de Vasconcelos, who arrived as governor in 1617, used mercenary African groups called Imbangala to make a devastating war on Ndongo, and then to raid and pillage some southern Kongo provinces. He was particularly interested in the province of Kasanze, a marshy region that lay just north of Luanda. Many slaves being deported through Luanda fled into this region and were often granted sanctuary, and for this reason, Mendes de Vasconcelos decided that a determined action was needed to stop it. The next governor of Angola, João Correia de Sousa, used the Imbangala to launch a full scale invasion of southern Kongo in 1622, following the death of Álvaro III. João Correia de Sousa claimed he had the right to choose the king of Kongo. He was also upset that the Kongolese electors chose Pedro II, a former Duke of Mbamba. Pedro II was originally from the duchy of Nsundi, hence the name of the royal house he created, the House of Nsundi. João Correia de Sousa also contended that Pedro II had sheltered runaway slaves from Angola during the latter's governorship of Mbamba.
Kongo-Portuguese War of 1622
The Kongo-Portuguese War of 1622 began initially because of a Portuguese campaign against the Kasanze Kingdom, which was conducted ruthlessly. From there, the army moved to Nambu a Ngongo, whose ruler, Pedro Afonso, was held to be sheltering runaway slaves as well. Although Pedro Afonso, facing an overwhelming army of over 20,000 agreed to return some runaways, the army attacked his country and killed him.
Following its success in Nambu a Ngongo, the Portuguese army advanced into Mbamba - the region inhabited by the Ombamba - in November. The Portuguese forces scored a victory at the Battle of Mbumbi. There they faced a quickly gathered local force led by the new Duke of Mbamba, and reinforced by forces from Mpemba led by its Marquis. Both the Duke of Mbamba and the Marquis of Mpemba were killed in the battle. According to Esikongo accounts, they were eaten by the Imbangala allies of the Portuguese. However, Pedro II, the newly crowned king of Kongo brought the main army, including troops from Soyo down into Mbamba and decisively defeated the Portuguese driving them from the country at a battle waged somewhere near Mbanda Kasi. Portuguese residents of Kongo, frightened by the consequences for their business of the invasion, wrote a hostile letter to João Correia de Sousa, denouncing his invasion.
Following the defeat of the Portuguese at Mbandi Kasi, Pedro II declared Angola an official enemy. The king then wrote letters denouncing João Correia de Sousa to the King of Spain and the Pope. Meanwhile, anti-Portuguese riots broke out all over the kingdom and threatened its long established merchant community. Portuguese throughout the country were humiliatingly disarmed and even forced to give up their clothes. Pedro, anxious not to alienate the Portuguese merchant community, and aware that they had generally remained loyal during the war, did as much as he could to preserve their lives and property, leading some of his detractors to call him "king of Portuguese".
As a result of Kongo's victory, the Portuguese merchant community of Luanda revolted against the governor hoping to preserve their ties with the king. Backed by the Jesuits, who had also just recommenced their mission there, they forced João Correia de Sousa to resign and flee the country. The interim government that followed the departure was led by the bishop of Angola. They were very conciliatory to Kongo and agreed to return some of the slaves captured by Correia de Sousa, especially the lesser nobles captured at the Battle of Mbumbi.
Regardless of the new government in Angola's overtures, Pedro II had not forgotten the invasion and planned to remove the Portuguese from the realm altogether. The king sent a letter to the Dutch Estates General proposing a joint military attack on Angola with a Kongo army and a Dutch fleet. He would pay the Dutch with gold, silver and ivory for their efforts. As planned, a Dutch fleet under the command of the celebrated admiral Piet Heyn arrive in Luanda to carry out its attack in 1624. The plan failed to come to fruition as, at that point, Pedro had died and his son Garcia Mvemba a Nkanga was elected king. King Garcia I was more forgiving of the Portuguese and had been successfully persuaded by their various gestures of conciliation. He was unwilling to press the attack on Angola at that time, contending that as a Catholic, he could not ally with non-Catholics to attack the city.
Factionalism and return of the House of Kwilu
The end of the first quarter of the 17th century saw a new flare-up in Kongo's political struggle. At the heart of the conflict were two noble houses fighting over the kingship. On one side of the conflict was the House of Kwilu, which counting most of the kings named Álvaro. They were ousted by the opposing House of Nsundi, when Pedro II was placed on the throne by powerful local forces in São Salvador, probably as a compromise when Álvaro III died without an heir old enough to rule.
As the reigning power, the House of Nsundi worked earnestly to place partisans in king-making positions throughout the empire. Either Pedro II or Garcia I managed to secure Soyo in the hands of Count Paulo, who held it and supported the House of Nsundi from about 1625 until 1641. Meanwhile, Manuel Jordão, a partisan of the House of Kwilu managed to force Garcia I to flee and placed Ambrósio I of the House of Kwilu on the throne.
King Ambrósio either could not or did not remove Paulo from Soyo, though he did eventually remove Jordão. After a rule marked by rumors of war mobilizations and other disruptive behavior, a great riot at the capital resulted in the death of the king by a mob. Ambrosio is replaced with Alvaro IV by the Duke of Mbamba, Daniel da Silva. King Alvaro IV is only eleven at the time and easily manipulated. In 1632, Daniel da Silva marched on the capital in order to "rescue his nephew from his enemies". At the time, he was under the protection of the Count of Soyo, Paulo, Alvaro Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba and his brother Garcia II Nkanga a Lukeni. After a dramatic battle in Soyo, the young king was successfully restored only to be later poisoned by Alvaro V, a Kimpanzu.
Kongo under the House of Kinlaza
After a second war against his cousins Nimi a Lukeni and Nkanga a Lukeni, Alvaro V was killed and replaced by Alvaro VI in 1636 initiating the House of Kinlaza's rule over Kongo. Following his death in 1641, his brother took over and was crowned Garcia II. The former House of Nsundi was consolidated into their House of Kwilu rivals as the Kimpanzu lineage of the dead Alvaro V.
Garcia II took the throne on the eve of several crisis. One of his rivals, Daniel da Silva (who probably received the patronage of the Daniel da Silva who was killed by Garcia II while defending Alvaro IV), managed to secure the County of Soyo and used it as a base against Garcia II for the whole of his reign. As a result, Garcia II was prevented from completely consolidating his authority. Another problem facing King Garcia II was a rebellion in the Dembos region, which also threatened his authority. Lastly, there was the agreement made by Pedro II in 1622 promising Kongo's support to the Dutch in an offensive to oust Portugal from Luanda.
Dutch invasion of Luanda and the Second Portuguese War
In 1641, the Dutch invaded Angola and captured Luanda after an almost bloodless struggle. They immediately sought to renew their alliance with Kongo, which had had a false start in 1624 when Garcia I refused to assist their attack on Luanda. While relations between Sao Salvador and Luanda were not warm, the two polities had enjoyed an easy peace due to the former's internal distractions and the latter's war against the Kingdom of Matamba. The same year of the Portuguese ouster from Luanda, Kongo entered into a formal agreement with the new government and agreed to provide military assistance as needed. Garcia II ejected nearly all Portuguese and Luso-African merchants from his kingdom. The colony of Angola was declared an enemy once again, and the Duke of Mbamba was sent with an army to assist the Dutch. The Dutch also provided Kongo with military assistance, in exchange for payment in slaves.
King of Kongo,Garcia II Receiving Dutch Ambassadors, 1642 DO Dapper, Description de lAfrique Traduite du Flamand (1686)
In 1642, the Dutch sent troops to help Garcia II put down an uprising by peoples of the southern district in the Dembos region. The government quickly put down the Nsala rebellion, reaffirming the Kongo-Dutch alliance. King Garcia II paid the Dutch for their services in slaves taken from ranks of Dembos rebels. These slaves were sent to Pernambuco, Brazil where the Dutch had taken over a portion of the Portuguese sugar producing region. A Dutch-Kongo force attacked Portuguese bases on the Bengo River in 1643 in retaliation for Portuguese harassment. The Dutch captured Portuguese positions and forced their rivals to withdraw to Dutch forts on the Kwanza River at Muxima and Masangano. Following this victory, the Dutch again lost interest in conquering the colony of Angola.
As in their conquest of Pernambuco, the Dutch West India Company was content to allow the Portuguese to remain inland. The Dutch sought to spare themselves the expense of war, and instead relied on control of shipping to profit from the colony. Thus, to Garcia's chagrin the Portuguese and Dutch signed a peace treaty in 1643 ending the brief albeit successful war. Despite his disappointment, however, with the Portuguese out of the way and an end to Dutch pursuits of troops, Garcia II could turn his attention to the growing threat posed by the Count of Soyo.
Kongo's War with Soyo
While Garcia was disappointed that the Dutch alliance could not drive out the Portuguese, it did free him to turn his attention to the growing threat posed by the Count of Soyo. The Counts of Soyo were initially strong partisans of the House of Nsundi and its successor the House of Kinlaza. Count Paulo had assisted in the rise of the Kinlaza to power. However, Paulo died at about the same time as Garcia became king in 1641. A rival count, Daniel da Silva from the House of Kwilu, took control of the county as a partisan of the newly formed Kimpanzu faction. He would claim that Soyo had the right to choose its own ruler, though Garcia never accepted this claim and spent much of the first part of his reign fighting against it. Garcia did not support this move as one of the most important offices in Kongo.
In 1645 Garcia II sent a force against Daniel da Silva under the command of his son Afonso. The campaign was a failure due to Kongo's inability to take Soyo's fortified position at Mfinda Ngula. Worse still, Afonso was captured in the battle forcing Garcia to engage in humiliating negotiations with da Silva to win back his freedom. Italian Capuchin missionaries who had just arrived in Soyo in the aftermath of the battle assisted in the negotiations. In 1646 Garcia sent a second military force against Soyo, but his forces were defeated again. Because Garcia was so intent on subduing Soyo, he was unable to make a full military effort to assist the Dutch in the war against Portugal.
The Third Portuguese War
The Dutch were convinced they could avoid committing their forces to any further wars. Queen Njinga had been active against the Portuguese, and the Dutch felt secure. When Portuguese reinforcements managed to defeat her at Kavanga in 1646, the Dutch felt obliged to be more aggressive. The Dutch convinced Kongo to join them and Queen Njinga in another venture against the Portuguese. In 1647, Kongo troops participated in the Battle of Kombi, where they soundly defeated the Portuguese field army and forced them to fight defensively.
A year later, Portuguese reinforcements from Brazil forced the Dutch to surrender Luanda and withdraw from Angola in 1648. The new Portuguese governor, Salvador de Sá, sought terms with Kongo, demanding the Island of Luanda, the source of Kongo's money supply of nzimbu shells. Although neither Kongo nor Angola ever ratified a treaty, sent to the king in 1649, the Portuguese gained de facto control of the island. The war resulted in the Dutch losing their claims in Central Africa, Nzinga being forced back into Matamba, the Portuguese restored to their coastal position and Kongo lost or gained nothing other than the indemnity Garcia paid which ended hostilities between the two rival powers. King Garcia II, after allowing the Portuguese to gain control over Luanda Island, switched the kingdom's currency to raffia cloth, negating the Portuguese gains.
The Battle of Mbwila
Portugal began pressing claims over southern vassals of Kongo, especially the country of Mbwila, following their restoration at Luanda. Mbwila, a nominal vassal of Kongo, had also signed a treaty of vassalage with Portugal in 1619. It divided its loyalty between the Colony of Angola and Kongo in the intervening period. Though the Portuguese often attacked Mbwila they never brought it under their authority.
Kongo began working towards a Spanish alliance, especially following António I's succession as king in 1661. Although it is not clear what diplomatic activities he engaged in Spain itself, the Portuguese clearly believed that he hoped to repeat the Dutch invasion this time with the assistance of Spain. António sent emissaries to the Dembos region and to Matamba and Mbwila attempting to form a new anti-Portuguese alliance. The Portuguese had been troubled, moreover by Kongo support of runaway slaves, who flocked to southern Kongo throughout the 1650s. At the same time, the Portuguese were advancing their own agenda for Mbwila, which they claimed as a vassal. In 1665 both sides invaded Mbwila and their rival armies met each other at Ulanga, in the valley below Mbanza Mbwila, capital of the district.
At the Battle of Mbwila in 1665, the Portuguese forces from Angola had their first victory against the kingdom of Kongo since 1622. They defeated the forces under António I killing him and many of his courtiers as well as the Luso-African Capuchin priest Manuel Roboredo (also known by his cloister name of Francisco de São Salvador), who had attempted to prevent this final war.
Kongo Civil War
In the aftermath of the battle, there was no clear succession. The country was divided between rival claimants to the throne. The two factions of Kimpanzu and Kinlaza hardened, and partitioned the country between them. Pretenders would ascend to the throne then be ousted. The period was marked by an increase of BaKongo slaves being sold across the Atlantic, the weakening of the Kongo monarchy and the strengthening of Soyo.
During this chaos, Kongo was being increasingly manipulated by Soyo. In an act of desperation, the central authority in Kongo called on Luanda to attack Soyo in return for various concessions. The Portuguese invaded the county of Soyo in 1670. They met with no more success than Garcia II, being roundly defeated by Soyo's forces at the Battle of Kitombo on 18 October 1670. The kingdom of Kongo was to remain completely independent, though still embroiled in civil war, thanks to the very force it had fought so long to destroy. This Portuguese defeat was resounding enough to end all Portuguese ambitions in Kongo's sphere of influence until the end of the nineteenth century.
The battles between the Kimpanzu and Kinlaza continued plunging the kingdom into a chaos not known in centuries. The fighting between the two lineages led to the sack of São Salvador in 1678. Ironically, the capital built by the pact of Mpemba and Mbata was burned to the ground not by the Portuguese or rival African nations but by its very heirs. The city and hinterland around Mbanza Kongo were depopulated. The population dispersed into the mountain top fortresses of the rival kings. These were the Mountain of Kibangu east of the capital and the fortress of the Águas Rosadas, a line founded in the 1680s from descendants of Kinlaza and Kimpanzu, the region of Mbula or Lemba where a line founded by the Kinlaza pretender, Pedro III ruled; and Lovota a district in southern Soyo that sheltered a Kimpanzu lineage whose head was D Suzanna de Nóbrega. Finally, D Ana Afonso de Leão founded her own center on the Mbidizi River at Nkondo and guided her junior kinsmen to reclaim the country, even as she sought to reconcile the hostile factions.
Group gathered around throne. Kongo (1686), by Dapper, Olfert, 1639-1689
In the interim, however, tens of thousands fleeing the conflict or caught up in the battles were deported as slaves to English, French, Dutch and Portuguese merchants every year. One stream led north to Loango, whose merchants, known as Vili (Mubires in the period) carried them primarily to merchants from England and the Netherlands, and others were taken to Luanda where they were sold to Portuguese merchants bound for Brazil. By the end of the seventeenth century, several long wars and interventions by the now independent Counts of Soyo (who restyled themselves as Grand Princes) had brought an end to Kongo's golden age.
Turmoil and rebirth
For nearly forty years, the kingdom of Kongo wallowed in civil war. With São Salvador in ruin, the rival houses had retreated to bases in Mbula (also known as Lemba) and Kibangu. In the midst of this crisis, a young woman named Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita appeared claiming that she was possessed by the spirit of Saint Anthony. She tried to win recognition for a reunification of the country. At first, in 1704 she tried with King Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba who ruled from Kibangu, east of the old capital. When he rebuffed her, she went to his rival João III Nzuzi a Ntamba at his fortified mountain of Lemba (also known as Mbula) just south of the Congo River. After being driven away from there, she decided to call her followers to reoccupy the capital with her. Thousands came, and the city was repopulated. As she became more of a political actor, she became involved in the rivalry between the kings, eventually choosing to elect Pedro Constantinho da Silva as a new king. However, she was captured shortly after this by Pedro IV's supporters, tried, condemned for witchcraft and heresy and burned in July, 1706. The movement continued in control of São Salvador until Pedro IV's army stormed it in 1709.
18th and 19th centuries
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Kongo artists began making crucifixes and other religious objects that depicted Jesus as an African. Such objects produced by many workshops over a long period (given their variety) reflect that emerging belief that Kongo was a central part of the Christian world, and fundamental to its history. A story of the eighteenth century was that the partially ruined cathedral of São Salvador, originally constructed for the Jesuits in 1549 and eventually elevated to cathedral status, was actually built overnight by angels. It was called affectionately, Nkulumbimbi. Pope John Paul II would eventually say mass at this cathedral in 1992.
Manuel II of Kongo succeeded Pedro IV in 1718. Manuel II ruled over a restored and restive kingdom until his death in 1743. However, Soyo's provincial status in the kingdom, nominal for years, limited Manuel's power. Nsundi on the north had also more or less become independent, although still claiming to be part of the larger kingdom and more or less permanently ruled by a Kimpanzu family. Even within the remaining portions of the kingdom, there were still powerful and violent rivalries. At least one major war took place in the 1730s in the province of Mbamba. Pedro IV's successor, Garcia IV Nkanga a Mvandu, ruled from 1743 to 1752. Pedro IV's restoration required his successor's membership in a branch of the Kinlaza faction resident in Matadi that had sworn loyalty to Pedro IV in 1716. Other Kinlaza branches had developed in the north, at Lemba and Matari, and in the south along the Mbidizi River in lands that had been ruled by D. Ana Afonso de Leão. De Leão's lands came to be called the "Lands of the Queen".
Kongo prince, Dom Nicolau. Westernized Nicolau I of Kongo (Also known as Nicolau I Misaki mia Nimi).He Ruled 27 August 1752–post 1758.
Kimpanzu and Kinlaza.
José ruled until 1785, when he handed power over to his brother Afonso V (1785–87). Afonso's brief reign ended in his sudden death, rumored to be poisoning. A confused struggle broke out following Afonso's death. By 1794, the throne ended up in the hands of Henrique I, a man of uncertain factional origin, who arranged for three parties to divide the succession. Garcia V abrogated the arrangement, proclaiming himself king in 1805. He ruled until 1830. André II, who followed Garcia V, appeared to have restored the older rotational claims, as he was from the northern branch of the Kinlaza, whose capital had moved from Matadi to Manga. Andre ruled until 1842 when Henrique II, from the southern (Mbidizi Valley) branch of the same family, overthrew him. Andre, however, did not accept his fate and withdrew with his followers to Mbanza Mputo, a village just beyond the edge of São Salvador, where he and his descendants kept up their claims. King Henrique II, who came to power after overthrowing André II, ruled Kongo from 1842 until his death in 1857.
In 1839 the Portuguese government, acting on British pressure, abolished the slave trade south of the equator which had so damaged Central Africa. Human trafficking continued until well into the 1920s, first as an illegal slave trade, then as contract labour. A commodity trade, at first focused on ivory and wax, but gradually growing to include peanuts and rubber, replaced the slave trade. This trade revolutionized the economies and eventually the politics of the whole of Central Africa. In place of the slave trade, largely under the control of state authorities, thousands, and eventually hundreds of thousands of commoners began carrying goods from inland to coastal ports. These people managed to share in the wealth of the new trade, and as a result, commercially connected people constructed new villages and challenged the authorities.
During this period social structure changed as well. New social organizations, makanda emerged. These makanda, nominally clans descended from common ancestors, were as much trading associations as family units. These clans founded strings of villages connected by fictional kinship along the trade routes, from Boma or the coast of Soyo to São Salvador and then on into the interior. A new oral traditions about the founder of the kingdom, often held to be Afonso I, described the kingdom as originating when the king caused the clans to disperse in all directions. The histories of these clans, typically describing the travels of their founder and his followers from an origin point to their final villages, replaced in many areas the history of the kingdom itself.
Despite violent rivalries and the fracturing of the kingdom, it continued to exist independently well into the 19th century. The rise of the clans became noticeable in the 1850s at the end of the reign of Henrique II. In 1855 or 1856, two potential kings emerged to contest the succession following his death. Álvaro Ndongo claimed the throne on behalf of the Kinlaza faction of Matari (ignoring the existence of Andre's group at Mbanza Puto), calling himself Álvaro XIII and Pedro Lelo claimed the throne on behalf of the Mbidizi Valley faction of the Kinlaza from a base at Bembe. Pedro won the contest, thanks to soliciting Portuguese aid, and with their help his soldiers defeated Álvaro. Like André II, Álvaro XIII did not accept defeat and established his own base at Nkunga, not far from São Salvador. The Portuguese support which had put Pedro V on the throne had a price, for when he was crowned Pedro V (he was actually the second king named Pedro V, the first one was the ruler in the late 1770s) in 1857 he also swore a treaty of vassalage to Portugal. Portugal gained nominal authority over Kongo, and even constructed a fort in São Salvador to house a garrison.
In 1866, citing excessive costs, the Portuguese government withdrew the garrison. Pedro continued his rule, however, though he faced increasing rivalry from clan-based trading magnates who drained his authority from much of the country. The most dangerous of these was Garcia Mbwaka Matu of the town of Makuta. This town had been founded by a man named Kuvo, who probably obtained his wealth through trade, since he and Garcia made a great deal of controlling markets. Though this was a great challenge in the 1870s, after Garcia's death in 1880, Makuta became less problematic.
At the Conference of Berlin in 1884–1885, European powers divided most of Central Africa between them. Portugal claimed the lion's share of what remained of independent Kongo, however, Portugal was not then in a position to make "effective occupation." King Pedro V ruled ten more years using the Portuguese to strengthen his control. King Pedro V voluntarily reaffirmed Kongo's position a Portuguese vassal in 1888. After a revolt against the Portuguese in 1914, Portugal abolished the title of king of Kongo, ending even symbolic native rule. The Titular Kings, however, kept using the title at least until 1964, when a dispute over the succession began, according to the Almanach de Bruxelles.
Letter From King Leopold II to Colonial Missionaries Heading to Africa, 1883
Below is a letter written in 1883 by King Leopold II of Belgium to Belgian Christian missionaries being sent to Congo. These Christian missionaries would eventually become the spearhead of Belgian colonialism only to be followed by Belgian traders and lastly the Belgian army.
Reverends, Fathers and Dear Compatriots:
The task that is given to fulfill is very delicate and requires much tact. You will go certainly to evangelize, but your evangelization must inspire above all Belgium interests. Your principal objective in our mission in the Congo is never to teach the n!ggers to know God, this they know already. They speak and submit to a Mungu, one Nzambi, one Nzakomba, and what else I don’t know.
They know that to kill, to sleep with someone else’s wife, to lie and to insult is bad. Have courage to admit it; you are not going to teach them what they know already. Your essential role is to facilitate the task of administrators and industrials, which means you will go to interpret the gospel in the way it will be the best to protect your interests in that part of the world. For these things, you have to keep watch on dis-interesting our savages from the richness that is plenty [in their underground. To avoid that, they get interested in it, and make you murderous] competition and dream one day to overthrow you.
Your knowledge of the gospel will allow you to find texts ordering, and encouraging your followers to love poverty, like “Happier are the poor because they will inherit the heaven” and, “It’s very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” You have to detach from them and make them disrespect everything which gives courage to affront us. I make reference to their Mystic System and their war fetish – warfare protection – which they pretend not to want to abandon, and you must do everything in your power to make it disappear.
Your action will be directed essentially to the younger ones, for they won’t revolt when the recommendation of the priest is contradictory to their parent’s teachings. The children have to learn to obey what the missionary recommends, who is the father of their soul. You must singularly insist on their total submission and obedience, avoid developing the spirit in the schools, teach students to read and not to reason.
There, dear patriots, are some of the principles that you must apply. You will find many other books, which will be given to you at the end of this conference. Evangelize the n!ggers so that they stay forever in submission to the White colonialists, so they never revolt against the restraints they are undergoing. Recite every day – “Happy are those who are weeping because the kingdom of God is for them.”
Convert always the Blacks by using the whip. Keep their women in nine months of submission to work freely for us. Force them to pay you in sign of recognition-goats, chicken or eggs-every time you visit their villages. And make sure that n!ggers never become rich. Sing every day that it’s impossible for the rich to enter heaven. Make them pay tax each week at Sunday mass.
Use the money supposed for the poor, to build flourishing business centres. Institute a confessional system, which allows you to be good detectives denouncing any Black that has a different consciousness contrary to that of the decision-maker.
Teach the n!ggers to forget their heroes and to adore only ours. Never present a chair to a Black that comes to visit you. Don’t give him more than one cigarette.
Never invite him for dinner even if he gives you a chicken every time you arrive at his house.
“The above speech which shows the real intention of the Christian missionary journey in Africa was exposed to the world by Mr. Moukouani Muikwani Bukoko, born in the Congo in 1915, and who in 1935 while working in the Congo, bought a second hand Bible from a Belgian priest who forgot the speech in the Bible. – Dr. Chiedozie Okoro
AD 1400 - 1568
Although its trading contacts were limited, by the fifteenth century the kingdom stretched from the River Congo in the north to the River Loje in the south, and from the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the River Kwango in the east. Several smaller autonomous states to the south and east paid tribute to it. Kongo was ruled by the manikongo, or king, and was divided into six provinces, each administered by a governor who was appointed by the manikongo. The capital was at Mbanza.
Unfortunately, the history of the kingdom was only written down in the late sixteenth century, and focussed on the ruling dynasty, largely overlooking any previous ruling dynasties.
1400 - ?
Lukeni lua Nimi (Nimi a Lukeni)
Founded Kongo kingdom.
Nkuwu a Lukeni
Son of Lukeni.
1470 - 1509
Nzinga Nkuwu / João I
Portuguese explorer Diogo Cao visits the kingdom, impressing the manikongo with Portuguese culture.
Portuguese missionaries, soldiers, and artisans are welcomed at Mbanza. The missionaries soon gain converts, including Nzinga Nkuwu (who takes the name João I), and the soldiers help the manikongo defeat an internal rebellion.
Alfonso I Mvemba a Nzinga
Raised as a Christian. Attempted to convert his subjects.
The Portuguese are primarily interested in increasing their private fortunes (especially through capturing Africans and selling them into slavery), despite the attempts of King Manuel I of Portugal to channel the efforts of his subjects into constructive projects. Following Alfonso's death, they play a major part in weakening the kingdom and reducing the hold of the capital (renamed São Salvador) over the provinces. Kongo declines rapidly and suffers major civil wars.
1543 - 1545
Pedro I Nkanga a Mvemba
1545 - 1561
Diogo (James) I Nkumbi a Mpudi
The Portuguese have already shifted their interest southwards to the previously subject kingdom of Ndongo and help them to defeat Kongo.
Alfonso II Mpemba a Nzinga
1561 - 1566
1566 - 1568
Killed while fighting a war in the east.
House of Kwilu
AD 1568 - 1622
During this period, the Portuguese strengthened their position along the coastline through an aggressive policy of war and treaty, forming a colony that would become Angola. They also sent several missions to Kongo's southern neighbour, Ndongo, which ended in a disastrous uprising in 1579. The Portuguese fled back into Kongo and had to be aided by Kongo's native forces to repel the Ndongo.
1568 - 1587
Alvaro I Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba
Stepson. Accession was contested.
Following a request by the manikongo, the Portuguese aids the Kongo kingdom (and their own interests) by helping to repel an invasion from the east by the Lunda ethnic group.
Kongo virtually becomes a Portuguese colony. They are 'allowed' by the manikongo to found its present capital, Luanda, which they use as a base for the slave trade.
1587 - 1614
Alvaro II Nimi a Nkanga
1614 - 1615
Bernardo II Nimi a Nkanga
1615 - 1622
Alvaro III Nimi a Mpanzu
House of Nsundi (Kinkanga)
AD 1622 - 1631
In around 1615, the Portuguese encouraged Imbangala bands that were ravaging the kingdom of Benguela to cross the River Kwanza and serve in the colonial armies. They were used well in attacks against Ndongo from 1618.
1622 - 1624
Pedro II Nkanga a Mvika
1624 - 1626
Garcia I Alphonse Mvemba a Nkanga
1626 - 1631
Ambrosio (Ambrose) I Nimi a Nkanga
House of Kimpanzu
AD 1631 - 1636
The Portuguese suffered a loss of authority during a series of wars in 1626 and 1628 against the ruler of Ndongo, thanks to mistakes made by the Portuguese governor. Negotiations and skirmishes continued until 1639.
1631 - 1636
Alvaro IV Nzinga a Nkuwu
Alvaro V Mpanzu a Nimi
House of Kinlaza
AD 1636 - 1665
Relative peace returned to the Kongo kingdom in 1639 following the conclusion of a peace treaty with Ndongo. A new Portuguesegovernor from 1648 attempted to restore colonial authority as much as possible, although he made little progress.
1636 - 1641
Alvaro VI Alphonse Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba
1641 - 1660
Garcia II Alphonse Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba
1641 - 1665
Garcia allies himself to the Dutch in an attempt to control Portuguese slave traders, but in 1665 a Portuguese force decisively defeats the army of Kongo. The manikongo becomes little more than a Portuguese vassal. The kingdom disintegrates into a number of small states, all controlled to varying degrees by the Portuguese.
1661 - 1665
Antonio (Anthony) I Nvita a Nkanga
Civil War Kings
AD 1665 - 1678
After the Battle of Mbwila (or Ulanga), the kingdom was involved in a long and brutal civil war. The House of Kimpanzu, with the support of Soyo, was often based at Mbamba Luvota, while the rival House of Kinlaza held Mbula (or Lemba), south of the River Congo, and Nkondo in the upper Mbidizi/Lukunga system. A third house, Agua Rosada, which was descended from both the other two, ruled in Kibangu. Soyo more or less became independent but regularly intervened in Kongo's affairs.
While many of the rulers in this period did not recognise the legitimacy of their rivals, the numbering was maintained by later generations to include them all.
House of Kimpanzu.
1665 - 1666
Alvaro VII Tusi Mumaza
House of Kinlaza.
1666 - 1669
Alvaro VIII Mvemba a Mpanzu
House of Kinlaza.
Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba
House of Kinlaza. Continued to rule at Mbula/Lemba.
1669 - 1670
Alavaro IX Mpanzu a Ntivila
House of Kimpanzu.
1670 - 1673
Rafael I Nzinga a Nkanga
House of Kimpanzu.
1673 - 1674
Afonso III Mvemba a Nimi
House of Kimpanzu.
1674 - 1678
Daniel I Miala mia Nzimbwila
House of Kimpanzu.
São Salvador is sacked and destroyed, considerably weakening the country's centre to the benefit of the rival faction based on the kingdom's edge.
House of Kibangu for the Agua Rosada
AD 1669 - 1709
The Kimpanzu retreated south to Mbamba Lovata, which territory was to some extent under the protection of the prince of Soyo. Under the informal leadership of Suzanna de Nobrega, they opposed the Kinlaza and any other group claiming to rule Kongo. The kingdom's population also retreated to the mountains or fell victim to the slavers. The manikongo of Kibangu still claimed sovereignty over the kingdom, but their power never extended beyond their fortress.
1669 - 1685
Garcia III Nkanga a Mvemba
André I Mvizi a Nkanga
1685 - 1688
Manuel Afonso Nzinga a Nlenke
1688 - 1695
Alvaro X Nimi a Mvemba Agua Rosada
1695 - 1709
Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba
Gained the entire kingdom, creating the Rotating Houses.
King of Lemba for the House of Kinlaza
AD 1669 - 1709
Following the destruction of the capital in 1678, the Kinlaza retreated to their fortress at Mbula/Lemba, Pedro III continued his reign and Joao II followed.
1669 - 1680
Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba
Ruled Kongo (1669). Continued diminished reign at Mbula/Lemba.
1680 - 1716
João II Nzuzi a Ntamba
The Period of Rotating Houses
AD 1709 - 1764
Following Dona Beatriz's religious movement which re-populated São Salvador, Pedro IV seized the kingdom and tried Dona Beatriz for heresy. With the church behind him, he secured Kongo and appeased the opposition faction by ensuring that a Kimpanzu heir would succeed each Kinlaza ruler at the end of his reign.
(The names of kings shown in red are from the list by Francisco das Necessidades, which was compiled from oral traditions and documents found in São Salvador in 1844)
1709 - 1718
Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba
Reunited the kingdom. House of Kinlaza.
1718 - 1743
Manuel II Mpanzu a Nimi
House of Kimpanzu.
1743 - 1752
Garcia IV Nkanga a Mvandu
House of Kinlaza.
1752 - al.1758
Nicolau I Misaki mia Nimi
House of Kimpanzu. Ruled after 1758.
Afonso IV Nkanga a Nkanga
House of Kinlaza.
António II Mvita a Mpanzu
House of Kimpanzu.
Sebastião I Nkanga kia Nkanga
House of Kinlaza.
1763 - 1764
Pedro V Ntivila a Nkanga
House of Kimpanzu. Overthrown.
House of the Southern Kinlaza
AD 1764 - c.1790
When Pedro V was overthrown he withdrew to Mbamba Lovata as Alvaro XI seized power. Alvaro XI and his successors were apparently from the Kinlaza who controlled Nkondo on the upper River Mbidizi and had been in place since the late 1680s when Ana Afonso de Leao had established herself there. These were termed Southern Kinlaza, as the Northern Kinlaza, centred in Mbula continued to exist.
1764 - 1778
Alvaro XI Nkanga a Nkanga
1778 - 1785
José I Mpasi a Nkanga
1785 - 1787
1787 - ?
Kings of Kongo
c.AD 1790 - 1891
Once Alvaro XII had died, the throne passed from house to house in no particular order, and records became very scrappy and sparse regarding their reigns.
? - 1793
Alexio I Mpanzu a Mbandu
1793 - 1794
1794 - 1803
Henrique I Alphonse Masaki ma Mpanzu
1803 - 1830
Garcia V Nkanga a Mvemba
1830 - ?
André II Mvizi a Lukeni
? - 1842
André III Ndondele Beya
Portugal officially abolishes the slave trade.
1842 - 1857
Henrique II Mpanzu a Nsindi a Nimi a Lukeni
1857 - 1859
Alvaro XIII / Ndongo
1859 - 1891
Pedro VI / Elelo
Kings of the Independent State of Congo (Angola)
AD 1891 - 1914
Under Portuguese control, these kings governed a reduced Kongo from their capital at São Salvador. Following their removal from power in 1914, the kings apparently retained their titles but had no power and the claim seems to have ended with independence in 1975. These kings are shown with a shaded background.
1891 - 1896
Alvaro XIV / Agua Rosada
1896 - 1901
Henrique III / Tekenge
1901 - 1910
Pedro VII / Mbemba
1910 - 1911
1911 - 1914
Deposed. The line continued with Hereditary Kings.
The kings are abolished by the Portuguese following a revolt.
1915 - 1923
Alvaro XV Alphonse Nzinga
1923 - 1955
Pedro VIII Alphonse
Angola's Portuguese status changes from colony to overseas province. Between this point and 1961 a nationalist movement develops and guerrilla war begins.
1955 - 1957
António III Alphonse
1957 - 1962
Pedro IX Alphonse Mansala
1962 - 1975
Isabel Maria da Gama
First female claimant to the title.