Her meeting with the Portugese governor, recorded by a Dutch artist, is legendary in the history of Africa’s confrontations with Europe: Representing her brother, the ngola, Nzinga arrived at Luanda in royal splendor. Upon entering the room, Nzinga observed that the only seat in the room belonged to the governor. She promptly summoned one of her women, who fell on her hands and knees and became Nzinga’s “seat”. Outwitted from the start, the governor never gained the advantage at the meeting, which resulted in a treaty on equal terms.
Converting to Christianity for reasons more political than religious (primarily to forge links with the governor) she adopted the name Dona Anna de Souza. However, the governor could not honor the treaty as Portugal’s rapacious appetite for black slaves had to be satisfied. She appealed to her brother to repel the Portugese, but he proved to be a weakling and Nzinga decided to take matters into her own hands.
Subsequently, Nzinga formed an alliance with the Jaga. She fashioned an organized army out of disparate elements, strengthened the alliance by marrying the Jaga chief, and ultimately created a land for her people by conquering the kingdom of Matamba. The fragile alliance with the Jaga chief ended when he betrayed her and attacked Matamba. Fortunately, dissension among the Europeans—the Dutch were encroaching on Portugal’s share of the slave trade—created an opportunity for Nzinga. She established a strategic alliance with the Dutch, pitting them against the Portugese. After the Portugese routed the Dutch, Nzinga retreated to the hills of Matamba, where she established a formidable resistance movement against the Portugese regime.
She became renowned for the guerilla tactics she employed for resisting the technologically superior Portugese army. She was a brilliant strategist and, although past sixty, led her warriors herself.
Never surrendering, she died on December 17, 1663.
Her death accelerated the Portugese occupation of the interior of South West Africa, fueled by the massive expansion of the Portugese slave trade.