Kongo Kingdom(1395 to 1857) was a central African kingdom located in present day Democratic Republic of Congo, near the lower Congo River. Kongo like other African Atlantic coastal kingdoms engage in massive slaving. Thousand were exported from the port of Mpinda, south banks of the Congo River.
The lower Congo River was being settled around the twelth century by the ancestors of the Bakongo(kongo). Farming communities began to sprang up. The soil located between forest and savannah area was rich and fertile. Food surpluses were common.
By the 1400, the farming communities were united under one kingdom and king called the manikongo, with his capital Mbanza Congo. Lukeni Nimi of the Bungu Kingdom with an alliance of the mwisikongo, the clan chiefs, united the Bakongo farming communities. Kongo was divided into six provinces: Mpemba, Soyo, Mbamba, Mbata, Nsundi, Mpangu. Mpemba, Soyo, and Mbamba were the richest and influential. Kingdom stability depended on the latter three working in harmony. At the arrival of the Portuguese, it is estimated Kongo had a population of three million.
Each province had its own army and lead by the governor. Kongo united could produce an army of 80,000 men. During battle, the manikongo would lead the army, with governors directing their individual provincial force.
The kingdom collected tribute and used a shell currency called the nzimbu. Kongo controlled the harvesting of the nzimbu shells on the island of Luanda. The kingdom weaved raffia, forged metals such as copper and iron, engaged in crafts such as pottery and basket making. With its control of nzimbu production, surrounding kingdoms came under its influence: Ndembu, Mbwila, Bungu, Kakongo, and Loango. By the 1500s, it was an empire that stretched from the Atlantic coast to the Kwango River.
Mbanza Congo was the capital of the Kingdom of Kongo with a population of 30,000 plus. It sat on a cliff with river below and forested valley. The King's dwelling was describe as a mile and half enclosure with walled pathways, courtyard, gardens, decorated huts, and palisades. One early explorer described it in terms of a Cretan labyrinth.
The Portuguese first arrived in 1483. They took Kongo ambassadors to the Portuguese court and later returned to Kongo, bringing back missionaries and European goods to the kingdom in 1491. Manikongo Nzinga a Nkuwu was baptized, but later rejected Chrisitianity. His successor, Manikongo Nzinga Mbembe (Afonso I), made Christianity the official state religion. The slave trade also began to increase. Slaves and ivory would be exchanged for European goods and guns. Slaves would be taken from nearby kingdoms, who would retaliate. The region would become more and more unstable.
Between 1568-1569, Kongo was invaded by the Jaga, who pillaged and sacked the kingdom. The manikongo was sent into exile. The reason for the invasion is not clear. It is believed that prolonged draught caused the Jaga to engaged in raiding or maybe the demand for slave and tribute from Kongo had taken a toll on the Jaga population. In 1574, Manikongo Alvaro I was reinstated to the throne with Portuguese assistance. The kingdom continued its trade in slaves, which was further entrenched with the arrival of the Dutch. The manikongo's authority slowly diminished and during the seventeenth century the kingdom split into factions.
The kingdom would be united later in 1709, under Pedro IV, but never experience its previous glory.
Related Article: Kikongo Numeration, Kongo Common Names , Lingala Numeration, List of Kings of Kongo, Palenquero , Afro-Colombian , Afro-Brazilian ,
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