Kingdom of Kongo

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The "Kingdom of Congo"
(now usually rendered as "Kingdom of Kongo" to maintain distinction from the present-day Congo nations)

The Kingdom of Kongo (Kongo: Kongo dya Ntotila or Wene wa Kongo) was an African kingdom located in west central Africa in what are now northern Angola, Cabinda, Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 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 a monarch, the Manikongo (sixteenth century spelling of 'Mwene Kongo) of the Bakongo (Kongo peoples, also known as the Essikongo), but its sphere of influence extended to the neighboring states such as Ngoyo, Kakongo, Ndongo and Matamba as well.


[edit] Early History

Despite the fact that little archaeological work has been done to define the earliest periods in Kongo's history, it is known that the original home of the Kingdom of Kongo lies somewhere in the region along the lower stretches of the Congo River. People speaking ancient versions of Kikongo probably arrived in the region from the north as part of the larger Bantu migration. They were practicing agriculture by at least 1000 BCE, and working iron by at least 400 BCE, though both these dates may be pushed back by more archaeological work. Presently, excavations at Madingo Kayes along the Atlantic coast to the north have established that complex societies existed in the region since the early centuries of the Common Era. At present, pottery sequences for the region are not yet established, though the style that was prevalent at the time the kingdom is identified in historical records (post 1483) appears to have started around 1100. Archaeological work at Mbanza Kongo in the late 1960s and 1970s by Fernando Batalha resulted in the uncovering of some material that may date to an earlier period.

[edit] Kingdom formation

Oral traditions about the early history of the country were set to writing for the first time in the late sixteenth century and the most comprehensive ones recorded in writing in the mid-seventeenth centuries (especially those written by the Italian Capuchin missionary Giovanni Cavazzi da Montecuccolo). These accounts may only be the traditions of the dynasty that was ruling in 1483 and not that of earlier dynasties whose traditions are largely forgotten or overlooked. More detailed research in modern oral traditions, initially conducted in the early twentieth century by Redemptorist missionaries, especially Jean Cuvelier and Joseph de Munck do not appear to relate to the very early period, but rather to later periods. According to John Thornton's study of these traditions, the root of the kingdom was the small state of Mpemba Kasi, located just south of modern day Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A dynasty of rulers from this small polity built up their rule along the Kwilu valley, and were buried in Nsi Kwilu, apparently its capital. Seventeenth century tradition remembered this sacred burial ground, which the Capuchin missionary Girolamo da Montesarchio was told, was so holy that even looking at it would cause death. The ruler of Mpemba Kasi in the seventeenth century was called "Mother of the King of Kongo" in respect of the antiquity of this territory. At some point around 1375, Nimi a Nzima, the ruler of Mpemba Kasi made an alliance with Nsaku Lau, ruler of neighboring Mbata, in which each would guarantee the succession of the other's state in the line of the two rulers making the agreement. The son and heir of this arrangement, Lukeni lua Nimi (often called Nimi a Lukeni) became the founder of Kongo when, around 1400, he moved his capital to Mbanza Kongo on a mountain that lay to the south and was conquered from Mwene Kabunga (or Mwene Mpangala) whose descendants symbolically challenged the conquest annually two centuries later.(see Thornton, "Early History") If the seventeenth century traditions were only those of a dynasty and not of the kingdom itself, it is likely that the Mwene Kabunga represented an earlier dynasty.

[edit] Political evolution

The electoral system established by the alliance of Mpemba Kasi and Mbata worked to protect Nimi a Nzima's descendants by arranging for Lukeni lua Nimi's crown to pass not to his son, who was deemed too young to hold it, but was first vested in the son of one of Lukeni's brothers named Nanga, and then to another royal nephew named Nlaza before finally passing to Lukeni lua Nimi's son Nkuwu a Lukeni around 1440. Nkuwu a Lukeni's son and immediate successor, Nzinga a Nkuwu, was ruling in 1483 when the first Portuguese arrived. These early kings gradually added other provinces to the kingdom, some such as Mpangu were annexed voluntarily, others such as Nsundi and Mbamba were conquered. Royal titles of the sixteenth century suggest that the king also held the title of king over Vungu, Kakongo, and Ngoyo (on the north bank of the Congo River) perhaps by arrangements and alliances that went back to the time of Mpemba Kasi, and also claimed territory as lord in the Kimbundu speaking regions to the south including Matamba and Ndongo. In the early sixteenth century, the kings of Kongo had the right to appoint and dismiss the governors of the provinces that they had conquered like Nsundi or Mbamba, or to approve or reject officials proposed by rulers of the provinces that had joined voluntarily, such as Mbata, Nkusu, or Wandu. The Mwene Kongos often gave the governorships to members of their family or its clients. As centralization increased, the allied provinces, like Mbata, though it continued to exercise some power in the choice of the monarch, gradually lost influence until its powers were only symbolic, manifested in the title of its rulers as "Grandfather of the King of Kongo."

A critical element in the centralization of Kongo was the high concentration of population around Mbanza Kongo and its outskirts, which was a densely settled region in an otherwise sparsely populated region (rural population densities probably did not exceed 5 persons per square kilometer). Early Portuguese travelers described Mbanza Kongo as a large city, the size of the Portuguese town of Évora as it was in 1491. By the end of the sixteenth century, Kongo's population was probably close to half a million people in a core region of some 130,000 square kilometers. By the early seventeenth century the city and its hinterland had a population of around 100,000, or one out of every five inhabitants in the Kingdom (according to baptismal statistics compiled by Jesuit priests). This concentration allowed resources, soldiers and surplus foodstuffs to be readily available at the request of the king. This made the king overwhelmingly powerful and caused the kingdom to become highly centralized.

By the time of the first recorded contact with the Europeans, the Kingdom of Kongo was a highly developed state at the center of an extensive trading network. Apart from natural resources and ivory, the country manufactured and traded copperware, ferrous metal goods, raffia cloth, and pottery. The Kongo people spoke in the Kikongo language. The eastern regions, especially that part known as the Seven Kingdoms of Kongo dia Nlaza (or in Kikongo Mumbwadi or "the Seven") was particularly famous for the production of cloth.

[edit] The arrival of the Portuguese and the reign of Afonso I

The capital of the Kongo Empire, Sao Salvador

In his travels along the African coast between 1482 and 1483., Portuguese navigator Diego Cão first encountered the powerful kingdom on the coast. During his visit, Cão left his men in Kongo while also kidnapping Kongo nobles to Portugal, only to return with the Kongo hostages in 1485. At that point the ruling king, Nzinga Nkuwu (son of Nkuwu a Lukeni) agreed to become a Christian, and Catholic priests arrived in 1491 to baptize the king 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 Nkuwu took the name of João in honor of the king of Portugal at the time João II.

João I ruled until his death around 1506 and was succeeded by his son Afonso Mvemba a Nzinga. Afonso faced a serious challenge from a half brother Mpanzu a Kitima, but he overcame his brother in a battle waged at Mbanza Kongo. According to Afonso's own account, sent to Portugal in 1509, 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 which was used by all following kings on official documents, royal paraphernalia and the like until 1860.

Afonso worked to create a viable local version of the Catholic Church in Kongo, providing for its income from royal assets and taxation, and providing salaries for its workers. He, advisors from Portugal such as Rui d'Aguir, the Portuguese royal chaplain sent to assist Kongo's religious development, created a syncretic version of Christianity that would remain a part of its culture for the rest of the kingdom's independent existence. Afonso himself studied hard at this task, d'Aguir at one point claiming that the king knew more of the church's tenents than d'Aguir himself. Part of the creation of this church was the creation of a viable priesthood, and to this end Afonso's son Henrique was sent to Europe to be educated. He was ordained a priest and in 1518 named as bishop of Utica (a North African diocese in the hands of the Muslims), and returned to Kongo in the early 1520s to take up the task of running Kongo's new church. He died in 1531 as he was about to go to Europe for the Council of Trent.

The Kongo church was always short of ordained clergy, and made up for it by the employment of a strong laity. Mestres (or school teachers) were the anchor of this system. Recruited from the nobility and trained in the kingdom's schools, they ran schools, provided religious instruction and services. At the same time they permitted the growth of syncretic forms of Christianity which incorporated older religious ideas with Christian ones. Thus, an abstract form (ukisi)of the word for charm, nkisi was used to translate "holy" and so both the Bible nkanda ukisi and the church nzo a ukisi were treated as special charms. While some European clergy often denounced these mixed traditions, they were never able to root them out the but hole.

In the following decades, the Kingdom of Kongo became a major source of slaves for traders from Portugal and other European powers, the Cantino Atlas of 1502 already mentions Kongo as a source of them 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, the purchase and sale of slaves within the country, and also his accounts on capturing slaves in war which were given and sold to Portuguese merchants. However, Afonso believed that the slave trade must be subject to Kongo law and when he suspected Portuguese of receiving illegally enslaved persons to sell, he wrote in 1526 to King João of Portugal, imploring him to put a stop to the practice. Ultimately, Afonso decided to establish a special committee to determine the legality of the enslavement of those who were being sold.

One aspect of centralized power in Kongo was the presence of fierce competition over the 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, thanks to a detailed inquest conducted into it 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 Pedro Nkanga a Mvemba, Afonso's son and first successor, and Diogo Nkumbi a Mpudi, his grandson who ultimately overthrew Pedro and was crowned in 1545. Although the factions declared themselves in the idiom of kinship (using the Portuguese term geração or lineage, probably kanda in Kikongo) they were not formed strictly by heredity, as 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. Diogo skillfully replaced or maneuvered these actors and kicked off a long reign that ended with his death in 1561.

[edit] Westernization of Kongo

King Álvaro I, born Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba, came to the throne in an environment of another contestation over the throne in 1568. He was not the biological son of his father Henrique, but rather the son of Henrique's wife by a previous husband. There were certainly factions that opposed him, though it is not know 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, perhaps of the 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 in the south of his country. 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, located in the interior east of Luanda, when Portugual went to war with it in 1579.

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 the Duke of Mbamba or the Mwene Mpemba,the Marquis of Mpemba, and the Mwene Soyo the Count of Soyo. He and his son Álvaro II Nimi a Nkanga began an order of chivalry, the Order of Christ, and renamed the capital city São Salvador or "Holy Savior" in Portuguese. 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.

Bishops were often favorable to Portuguese 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 mestres 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"). But controlling revenue was vital, and even Jesuit missionaries were paid salaries from the royal exchequer.

Álvaro I and Álvaro II (1587-1614) 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, and one of the most important of these was allowing Manuel, the Mwene Soyo (renamed the Count of Soyo in Álvaro's renomination of officials) 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. 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 was able to put his own choice in as Duke of Mbamba when da Silva died in 1620 instead of having the province fall into the hands of da Silva's son. At the same time, however, Álvaro created another powerful and semi-independent nobleman in Manuel Jordão who held Nsundi for him.

[edit] The Portuguese Invasion and its Aftermath

Tensions between Portugal and Kongo increased 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. His successor João Correia de Sousa used them to launch a full scale invasion of southern Kongo in 1622, following the death of Álvaro III. Claiming that he had the right to choose the king of Kongo, and upset that the Kongolese electors chose Pedro II Nkanga a Mvika, the former Duke of Mbamba to be king, a man that Correia de Sousa contended had sheltered runaway slaves from Angola, he sent a large force of some 20,000 soldiers into southern Kongo. The Portuguese forces scored a victory at the Battle of Mbumbi in November 1622 against a quickly gathered local force led by the Duke of Mbamba, in which the Duke and the Marquis of neighboring Mpemba were killed, and according to Kongolese accounts, eaten by Imbangala allies of the Portuguese. Pedro II now declared Angola an official enemy, and led a royal army to Mbamba where he defeated and drove the Portuguese forces out of the country. In the aftermath of this, 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.

As a result of this, the Portuguese merchant community of Luanda, which had strong ties in Kongo revolted against the governor, backed by the Jesuits, who had also just recommenced their mission there, and forced João Correia de Sousa to resign and flee the country. The interim government, led by the bishop, that followed was very conciliatory to Kongo, agreeing to return some of the slaves captured by Correia de Sousa, and especially returning lesser nobles captured at Mbumbi.

Pedro II meanwhile, 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.(NA Neth, Staten Generaal 5157 Session 27 Oct 1623) Indeed, a Dutch fleet under the command of the celebrated admiral Piet Heyn arrive in Luanda to carry out its attack in 1624, but at that point, Pedro had died and his son Garcia I Mvemba a Nkanga, recognizing the various gestures of concilation made by the Portuguese in Luanda 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.

[edit] The Development of Factionalism

In this period there was increasing political struggle within Kongo, as rival factions ousted each other from kingship. Two houses, the House of Kwilu and the House of Nsundi contested the throne. The House of Kwilu counted most of the kings named Álvaro, held office but was forced by rivals to vest the kingship in a second royal branch, the House of Nsundi when Pedro II was elected king in 1622. Either Pedro or Garcia I, his son and successor (1624-31) 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, but Ambrósio either could not or did not remove Paulo from Soyo, though he did eventually remove Jordão. Paulo played an important role in the civil war that matched two brothers Álvaro Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba and Garcia Nkanga a Lukeni (members of a new house) against partisans of the House of Nsundi. As a result of these wars, Álvaro was crowned as Álvaro VI in 1636, and following his death in 1641 his brother Garcia took over and became Garcia II. Together they founded the Kinlaza lineage, while the former House of Nsundi consolidated into their rivals, the Kimpanzu.

[edit] Kongo and the Dutch Seizure of Luanda

However, as Garcia took the throne, one of his rivals, Daniel da Silva, managed to secure the County of Soyo and would use it as a base against Garcia for the whole of his reign, preventing him from completely consolidating his authority. Garcia waged several wars against Soyo but was unsuccessful, and these wars greatly hampered his ability to fight the Portuguese when the Dutch, acting on the agreement that Pedro II had originally proposed in 1622, seized Luanda from the Portuguese in 1641.

The Dutch commanders sent an embassy to Kongo to tie up an alliance against the Portuguese who had retreated into the interior following the Dutch seizure of the city. Kongo forces moved to the border, and assisted the Dutch in their attack on the nearest Portuguese position on the Bengo River in 1643, forcing them to withdraw to Massangano in the interior. The Dutch provided Kongo with soldiers and assisted Garcia in putting down rebellions in the Dembos region. Garcia paid the Dutch for their services by delivering slaves taken from the rebels to them which were sent to Pernambuco, Brazil where the Dutch had taken over a portion of the Portuguese sugar producing region.

Garcia's effort to use the Dutch presence in Luanda to drive the Portuguese out of Angola was hampered by two factors. On the one hand, Garcia had to devote both attention and military resources to the struggle with Daniel da Silva over control of Soyo. Wars in 1641 and 1645-46 prevented Kongo from giving full support to the Dutch. Although Both Daniel da Silva and Garcia sent embassies to the Netherlands, which wished to stay neutral.

The second problem for Garica was the lack of Dutch desire to conquer the whole of the colony. As in their conquest of Pernambuco, the West India Company was content to allow the Portuguese to remain in power to spare themselves the expense of war, and instead relied on control of shipping to profit form the colony. Thus, to Garcia's chagrin the Portuguese and Dutch signed a peace treaty in 1643. It was only in 1646 when the Dutch realized that the Portuguese might attack them more effectively following the arrivals of reinforcements from Brazil, and their defeat of Queen Njinga's forces that they pressed an attack on Massangano. Although the Dutch were more aggressive after this, Kongo was too preoccupied with Soyo to render sufficient help, and in the end, a new Portuguese expedition from Brazil recaptured Luanda for the Portuguese in 1648.

The new Portuguese governor, Salvador de Sá sought terms with Kongo, and demanded that the Island of Luanda, the source of Kongo's money supply of nzimbu shells, be handed over. Although a treaty was never ratified, the Portuguese appeared to have taken the island over. They also pressed claims over southern provinces of Kongo, especially the country of Mbwila.

Mbwila was a nominal vassal of Kongo, but had also signed a treaty of vassalage with Portugal in 1619, and 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. A political division in Mbwila in 1664 found Kongo's new king Antonio I pressing Kongo's claims, and the Portuguese advanced their own. In 1665 both sides invaded the country and their rival armies met each other at Ulanga, near Mbwila's capital.

[edit] The Kongo Civil Wars

At the Battle of Mbwila in 1665, the Portuguese forces from Angola defeated the forces of king António I of Kongo; António was killed with many of his courtiers and the Luso-African Capuchin priest Manuel Roboredo (also known by his cloister name of Francisco de Sao Salvador), who had attempted to prevent this final war.

In the aftermath of the battle, there was no clear succession, and the country was divided between rival claimants to the throne. The two factions of Kimpanzu and Kinlaza hardened, and partitioned the country between them. Their battles led to the sack of São Salvador in 1678, its depopulation and the abandonment of the hinterland as well, as people moved to the mountain top fortresses of the rival kings. The Portuguese tried to benefit from this long lasting civil war and capitalize on their victory at Mbwila, but when they invaded Soyo in 1670 they were roundly defeated by Soyo at the Battle of Kitombo on 18 October 1670, ending Portuguese ambitions in the country until the middle of the nineteenth century. 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 exhausted the country as tens of thousands of the inhabitants were deported as slaves to English, French, Dutch and Portuguese merchants every year.

In this crisis a young woman named Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita, claiming that she was possessed by the spirit of Saint Anthony, tried to win recognition for a reunification of the country. At first, in 1704 she tried with one king, Pedro IV, in the mountain of Kibangu, east of the old capital and when he rebuffed her, she went to his rival João II at his fortified mountain of Mbula (or Lemba) just south of the Congo River. Failing there she went to the abandoned capital and was joined by a vast popular movement of thousands, who informally restored the kingdom in the name of the "False Saint Anthony". However, when she became pregnant, Pedro IV was able to capture her, and quickly put her on trial for witchcraft and heresy, and had her burned at the stake in 1706. Then in 1709 he reoccupied São Salvador and reunited the country. By 1716 he had the nominal support of the other pretenders and agreed that the kingship would rotate between the Kimpanzu and Kinlaza factions.

D. Beatriz' movement was part of important changes that were taking place within Kongo in the late seventeenth century. Increasingly Kongolese sought to place their kingdom in the larger Christian world and new traditions were emerging to do this. One such tradition was one that maintained that at the time of his conversion, Afonso I had demanded that all people burn their idols. His mother, however, was committed to keeping one, and despite her son's pleas refused to part with in. Finally, he decided to bury her alive, arguing that no one could be above the law. The church where she was said to be buried eventually became a sort of shrine, and prayers are still said there today, where a bronze star is fixed in modern day Mbanza Kongo's airport. The story is not true, for contemporary documents dating from Afonso's time do not mention it, nor do earlier historic documents. But it reveals a new vision of Christianity. Beatriz took this thinking a step farther and declared that Jesus, Mary and St Francis were all born in Kongo, and that Nsundi was Bethlehem and São Salvador was Jerusalem in the Nativity story. Some of her followers made tin statues of Saint Anthony in honor of the saint that possessed her.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, 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. Another 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.

Pedro VI's successor, crowned as Manuel II in 1718 ruled over a restored but restive kingdom until his death in 1743. While the kingdom was restored, there were still powerful and violent rivalries, at least one major war took place in the 1730s in the province of Mbamba. His next successor, Garcia IV (1743-1752) was from the rival Kinlaza faction, as Pedro IV's restoration had required. But the system broke down in the 1760s, when Alvaro XI drove out Pedro V and took over the throne. Civil war resumed, and was only partially settled with the succession of two Kinlaza brothers, José I (1779-85) and Afonso V (1785-87). In the confused aftermath of Afonso's death the throne passed through several hands, finally ending up in the possession of Henrique I, who arranged for three parties to divide the succession. This was abrogated however by Garcia V who intervened and had himself proclaimed king in 1805 and would rule until 1830.

Nevertheless, the country continued to exist, at least in name, for over two centuries, until the realm was divided among Portugal, The Congo Free State and then Belgium, and France at the Conference of Berlin in 1884-1885.

[edit] The Kings of Kongo

This list is constructed primarily from that found in Graziano Saccardo, 'Congo e Angola con la storia dell'antica missione dei cappuccini (3 vols, Milan, 1982-83), vol. 3, pp. 11-14. Saccardo bases his reconstruction on several kinglists produced over time, by Antonio da Silva, Duke of Mbamba in 1617, by Antonio de Teruel in 1664, by Pedro Mendes in 1710 and by Francisco das Necessidades in 1844. In addition many of the kings wrote letters and signed them with both their names and their numbers, and Saccardo has found many of these to verify the kinglists.

Saccardo's king list has been modified in the following manner: the Kikongo names of the kings have been given in a Kikongo form following norms established in Joseph de Munck, Kinkulu kia Nsi eto' (Tumba, 1956, 2nd ed, Matadi, 1971). The Christian names of the kings are given in modern Portuguese spelling. In addition Saccardo's entries have been updated by a number of sources, most notably the kinglist, unknown to him found in the Instituto Histórico e Geografico Brasileiro (Rio de Janeiro) Manuscritos, Lata 6, pasta 2. "Catallogo dos reis de Congo" MS of c. 1758.

Lukeni lua Nimi (c. 1390)



Nkuwu a Ntinu (or Nkuwu a Lukeni)(c 1450)

Nzinga a Nkuwu (c 1470-1509), baptized as João I, 3 May 1491

Afonso I Mvemba a Nzinga (1509-42)

Pedro I Nkanga a Mvemba (1542-45)

Diogo I Nkumbi a Mpudi (1545-61)

Afonso II (1561)

Bernardo I (1561-66)

Henrique I (1567-8)

Alvaro I Nimi a Lukeni lua Mvemba (1567-March 1587)

Alvaro II Nimi a Nkanga (March 1587-9 August 1614)

Bernardo II Nimi a Nkanga (12 August 1614-August 1615)

Alvaro III Nimi a Mpanzu (August 1615-4 May 1622)

Pedro II Nkanga a Mvika (26 May 1622-3 April 1624)

Garcia I Mvemba a Nkanga (27 April 1624-March 1626)

Ambrósio I Nimi a Nkanga (March 1626-7 March 1631)

Álvaro IV Nzinga a Nkuwu (8 February 1631-24 February 1636)

Álvaro V Mpanzu a Nimi (27 February 1636-14 August 1636)

Álvaro VI Nimi a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba (27 August 1636-22 February 1641)

Garcia II Nkanga a Lukeni a Nzenze a Ntumba (23 February 1641-end of 1660)

António I Nvita a Nkanga (start of 1661-29 October 1665)

Period of Divided Kingship (after the Battle of Mbwila [or Ulanga] rival kings appeared in several places, sometimes simultaneously. Although many did not recognize the others, their numbers were considered by later generations in deciding their own numbering (that is Alvaro X, Pedro III, etc)

At São Salvador

Afonso II Afonso (November-December 1665)

Álvaro VII Tusi Mumaza (December 1665-June 1666)

Álvaro VIII Mvemba a Mpanzu (June 1666-beginning 1669)

Pedro III Nsimba Ntamba (January-June 1669)

Álvaro IX Mpanzu a Ntivila (June 1669-end of 1670)

Rafael I Nzinga a Nkanga (end 1670-mid 1673)

Afonso III Mvemba a Nimi (mid 1673-mid 1674)

Daniel I Miala mia Nzimbwila (mid 1674-mid 1678)

(São Salvador was destroyed and abandoned in 1678)

At Nkondo''

Afonso II (December 1665-end 1669)

Afonso III Mvemba a Nimi (end 1669-mid 1673)

At Lemba (Mbula)

Pedro III Nsimba a Ntamba (fled to Lemba from São Salvador) (June 1669-1680)

João III Nzuzi a Ntamba (1680-1716)

At Kibangu

Garcia III Nkanga a Mvemba (end 1669-start 1685)

André I Mvizi a Nkanga (1685)

Manuel Afonso Nzinga a Nlenke (1685-88)

Álvaro X Nimi a Mvemba Agua Rosada (1688-December 1695)

Pedro IV Nusamu a Mvemba (December 1695-21 February 1718)

Reunited Kingdom Pedro IV restored the capital to São Salvador in February 1709 and ruled there from that date

Manuel II Mpanzu a Nimi (February 1718-21 April 1743)

Garcia IV Nkanga a Mvandu (27 July 1743-31 March 1752)

Nicolau I Misaki mia Nimi (27 August 1752-post 1758)

The next kings are uncertain, Francisco das Necessidades, who created a Kinglist based on oral traditions and documents found in São Salvador in 1844 noted the following kings between Nicolau I and Pedro V:

Afonso IV Nkanga a Nkanga

António II Mvita a Mpanzu

Sebastião I Nkanga kia Nkanga

Pedro V Ntivila a Nkanga (September 1763-1764)

Álvaro XI Nkanga a Nkanga I(May 1764-1778)

José I Mpasi a Nkanga (1778-1785)

Afonso V (1785-1788)

Álvaro XII (1788-unknown)

Alexio I Mpanzu a Mbandu (unknown-1793)

Joaquim I (1793-94)

Henrique I Masaki ma Mpanzu (10 January 1794-1803)

Garcia V Nkanga a Mvemba (1803-start 1830)

André II Mvizi a Lukeni (start 1830-1842)

Henrique II Mpanzu a Nsindi a Nimi a Lukeni (1842-January 1857)

Álvaro XIII Ndongo (January 1857-7 August 1859)

Pedro V Elelo [self misnumbered] 7 August 1859-February 1891)

Álvaro XIV Agua Rosada (February 1891-November 1896)

Henrique III Tekenge (1896-1901)

Pedro VI Mbemba (1901-10)

Manuel Nkomba (1910-11)

Manuel III Kiditu (1911-1914) the Portuguese abolished the title of King of Kongo following the revolt of 1914.

[edit] Sources

Kongo's history is known to us both from oral tradition and from written documents. Oral tradition was already being set to writing as early as the sixteenth century, and there have been modern ones as well. The most important collection of modern traditions were published by Jean Cuvelier in Nkutama a mvila za makanda (1st edition, 1934, 4th edition, 1971) with the traditions of some 500 clans. Cuvelier's original notes, in small notebooks entitled "Mvila" and numbered can be found in the Katolieke Universiteit Leuven. A summary of a few with interpretations were published by Cuvelier in French, "Traditions Congolaise" Congo 1930. Tradition also figured in the short history of Kongo written by Joseph de Munck, Kinkulu kia Nsi eto (Matadi, 1971). De Munck's own substantial field notes and traditions are also found in the Katolieke Universiteit Leuven.

Documentation in European languages comes from two sources: letters and documents of Kongo origin, since the country was literate after 1500, and visitors reports from missionaries and Portuguese travelers and officials. After the formation of the colony of Angola there were also documents from that source. A very large collection of such materials was published by António Brásio in Monumenta Missionaria Africana 1st series, 15 volumes, Lisbon, 1952-88.

  • Ann Hilton, The Kingdom of Kongo (Oxford, 1982)
  • John K Thornton, The Kingdom of Kongo: Civil War and Transition, 1641-1718 (Madison, 1983)
  • The Kongolese Saint Anthony: Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1683-1706 (Cambridge UP, 1998)

"The Origins and Early History of the Kingdom of Kongo," International Journal of African Historical Studies34/1 (2001): 89-120.

  • Graziano Saccardo, Congo e Angola con la storia dell'antica missione dei Cappuccini (3 vols., Venice, 1982-83)

[edit] See also

List of Manikongo of Kongo

[edit] External links

es:Reino del Congo fr:Kongo (royaume) kg:Kongo ya Ntotila ja:コンゴ王国 pt:Reino do Congo fi:Kongon kuningaskunta

Kingdom of Kongo

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