Mixed media (gouache, water colour and ink) on Felix Schoeller True Rag Etching
427 X 630 mm (original artwork is framed in one-off arched frame with bronze plaque as per image)

Prints are on Felix Schoeller True Rag Etching 310 gsm
437 x 655mm (with added white border for square format)
Edition of 15
Hand-signed, dated and numbered

Nzinga (or Njinga in modern Kimbundu) was born into the royal family of Ndongo in 1583 in present-day Northern Angola. Her mother was one of her father’s slave-wives, and a favourite concubine. Nzinga, while not perceived as a possible heir to the throne (being a woman and the child of a slave), was doted on by her father, who enrolled her for military training. The young royal displayed great talent with the traditional Ndongan battle axe. After her father passed, her brother ascended to the throne.

In the 1620s the race for colonial conquest in Africa was in full force. In an effort to expand the colony of Angola, the Portugese became preoccupied with claiming the Kingdoms of Ndongo and Matamba as sources and trade routes for slaves. As Nzinga was able to speak Portuguese, her brother sent her to represent him in a meeting with the Portuguese crown via Governor Joao Corria de Sousa. Legend has it that on arrival Nzinga noticed that the only chair in the room was provided for Governor Corria and promptly ordered one of her assistants to fall on their hands and knees and act as a chair for her. Nzinga recognized the strategic value of an alliance with the Portuguese, especially as a source of guns for their own armies. To forge diplomatic relations, she converted to Christianity and adopted the name “Dona Anna de Souza”.

In 1626, after her brother’s passing, Nzinga ascended to the throne and recalibrated her relationship with the enemy: She denounced Christianity and refused the Portuguese control of her nation. After various setbacks and victories, she forged alliances with African warlords and other kingdoms. Adopting more masculine traits, she established an all-female bodyguard for herself and ordered that her personal concubines address her as ‘King” and wear women’s clothing.

By the late 1630’s Nzinga further exploited European politics and forged a strategic alliance with the Dutch to lead an army against the Portuguese – continuing what would eventually transpire to be a 30-year war against them. Again, rumour has it that during these years, Nzinga traveled with a group of the biggest and tallest Dutch bodyguards. Power-hungry and considered the most potent adversary to Europeans in all of Africa, Nzinga expanded her kingdom through military conquest after military conquest. She physically led troops into battle well into her sixties, and orchestrated guerilla attacks against the Portuguese.

After the wars with Portugal ended, she redeveloped Mtamba as a trading power, strengthening her hold on the slave trade. In this post-war era, Nzinga’s fashion became more feminine – she imported silk and goods from Europe, and placed renewed focus on the education of her people. Nzinga died in 1663, having appointed her sister Kambu as her successor.