A Future Queen Meets with the Portuguese Governor, Luanda [Angola], 1622

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This record was last updated on 03 Jul 2017

Image Reference

Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi, Istorica Descrizione de' Tre Regni Congo, Matamba, et Angola (Milan, 1690), p. 437 (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library)

Nzinga, later queen of Matamba, a pre-colonial state, met the Portuguese governor in Luanda in 1622 as the representative of her brother, then king of Ndongo, another pre-colonial kingdom. She observed that the governor was seated on the only chair in the audience chamber and immediately summoned one of her female retainers, who fell upon her hands and knees and became her "seat." Giovanni Cavazzi, an Italian Catholic missionary, later heard Nzinga narrate this scene, apparently in astonishment (see p. 497). An Italian engraver for the edited version of Cavazzi’s original account created this visual interpretation of the event. Portuguese sources record the visit but not this incident. Cavazzi (b. 1621) was an Italian priest who from 1654 to 1667 joined the Capuchin mission in what is today northern Angola. After a visit to Europe he returned to Angola, particularly the Kingdom of Kongo, where he remained from 1672 to 1677. He died in Genoa in 1678. Cavazzi's original drawings (but not this image) are in his manuscript, in a private collection in Modena, Italy. A microfilm copy of the manuscript is held by the Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library. See modern Portuguese translation with notes, edited by Graciano Maria de Leguzzano (Descrição Histórica [Lisbon, 1965]); also drawings in "Bassani" on this website. Cavazzi's drawings must be among the earliest known eyewitness sketches of African life by a European; they can be contrasted to, for example, the fanciful depictions found in Dapper or by the De Bry brothers (see, "Dapper" and "De Bry" on this website). Thanks to Joseph Miller for his assistance in interpreting this image.