Ancestress Tembo a Ndumbo
Ancestress Tembo was truly a warrior. Born to an Imbangala warlord and a concubine, she passed down 14 different laws from the early 1600’s. One practice that was passed down was the one that Ancestress Tembo was most famous for which was killing her child at birth. She ground her son’s body into an oil which she allegedly used during war. After this, female Imbangala warriors carried mortar and pestles with them into battle. The great Ancestress is who Njinga/Nzinga of Ndongo/Angola modeled herself after.
Walatta Petros (1593-1643)
So Walatta Petros was interesting too. She was married to the brother of Emperor Susәnyos of Ethiopia. She eventually got sick (and tired) of all his reindeer games, and egregious politics and left him to become an Ethiopian Orthodox nun. She was one of the first women to be sainted. After she became a nun, her estranged husband tracked her down and tried to kill her by setting her house on fire while she was still in it. St. Petros escaped, and her husband gave up on trying to get her back. He eventually comes around to the idea of her being a nun, and supports her in her decisions (and saves her from execution). It is rumored that she later became a lesbian, but she became the subject of a hagiography between 1671 and 1672 because of her opposition to Catholicism.
Krotoa/Eva of the Cape of Good Hope (1640-1674)
Krotoa (or Eva) was a chameleon. She began working under Jan Van Riebeeck, who at that time was the Commander of the Cape in 1652. She is today known as “the mother of Afrikaans", as she was Van Riebeeck’s main translator and intelligence agent. About 7 years later in 1659 she met and became the lover of a Danish surgeon named Pieter van Meerhoff. They got married in 1664, had children and got involved with trading expeditions. Sis was living the dream. Her skin was glowing, edges were laid, she gained healthy relationship weight and then Pieter died. Unfortunately, Krotoa/Eva lost her mind and never really recovered. She spent the rest of her days in a cell on Robben’s Island, drunk and alone until her death in 1674.
Njinga/Nzinga of Ndongo/Angola (1582-1683)
On to my personal favorite, we have Njinga/Nzinga (name can be spelled either way) of Ndongo/Angola. She came from a long line of royalty. Her father Nzinga Mbemba (later known as Afonso I) was king, then her brother Ngola Mbande took the throne after their father’s death but Nzinga, was by far the most powerful ruler of them all. Now it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Aside from losing her family at the hands of Ngola (he was power tripping, and ordered the assassination of their half-brother, step mother and ordered the sterilization of Nzinga and her sister and had Nzinga’s infant son killed, all to secure the throne) Nzinga also had to face sexism in the courts, but she did it with grace. Taking the throne in 1624, Njinga took back the capital (Kabasa) from the Portuguese and turned the wealth into wealth in people. Njinga fought tooth and nail to keep the throne, but she lost it to the Jaga for a while, then regained her title. *Cue Bounce Back by Big Sean*
Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita of the Kongo
And finally, the illustrious Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita of the Kongo. The same year that she turned 20, this spiritual medium/healer led a religious revolt during the Kongo Civil War which lasted 44 years (1655-1709). Dona Beatriz’s revolt lasted about two years, from 1704-1706, which is right around the peak of the Civil War. Legend has it that Dona Beatriz declared herself possessed by St. Anthony who had told her that Jesus “was from the Kongo" and demanded that war and slavery cease. She had a large following and that threatened the power of the then king of the Kongo. She was burned at the stake, and thousands of her followers were captured, and enslaved.