Nzinga was born around 1580 as the daughter of King Ngola Kiluanji Kia Samba and Kangela. The Ndongo Kingdom in Angola was conquered by the Portuguese in 1618. She had wished to become ruler of her tribe early, but her brother was made ngola (ruler) in the early 1620s. He must have thought something of her political influence because he sent her to negotiate with the Portuguese governor de Sousa. It was an awkward conversation as the governor sat upon a throne while not allowing Nzinga to sit. She then ordered a slave to kneel so that she may sit on him. According to one account, she then had the slave slaughtered before the governor’s eyes showing him she never sat in the same chair twice. She did want to use the Portuguese influence to become the ruler of the tribe and even allowed herself to be baptised. She took on the name Dona Ana de Sousa, naming herself after the governor.
Her brother died in 1624 as did his son and she could now succeed him as the undisputed ruler. The Portuguese ran her out of her own Kingdom just two years later and installed a ruler that would cooperate. In retaliation Nzinga allied herself with the neighbouring Kingdom of Kasanji and had them close the slave routes to the Portuguese. She went on to recruit a powerful army and conquered the Kingdom of Matamba in 1630 and called herself Queen. She remained a nuisance to the Portuguese as they now had to deal with her as Queen. She repeatedly attacked the Portuguese to force them out. At last in 1656 a treaty was negotiated, and she once again embraced the Catholic faith. She continued to rule well into her eighties.
Bizarrely, she never married but was said to have kept as many as 30 slaves as sexual partners, supposedly killing them after she had finished with them. She died in 1663. 1