Queen Nzinga, Kingdom of Kongo, Meeting with the Portuguese, late 17th cent.

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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 at Brown University)

When Nzinga entered a room to meet with the Portuguese, she observed that the Portuguese governor of Luanda was seated on the only chair; she immediately summoned one of her female retainers who fell upon her hands and knees and became her "seat." Cavazzi (who writes the Queen's name as Zingha) witnessed this scene, apparently in astonishment (see p. 497). See also modern reprint of Cavazzi, in Portuguese with notes, edited by Graciano Maria de Leguzzano (Descricao Historica...., Lisbon, 1965). Cavazzi (b. 1621) was an Italian priest who from 1654 to 1667 joined the Capuchin mission in what is today northern Angola, and after a visit to Europe 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 are in his manuscript, located in a private collection in Modena, Italy. A microfilm copy of the manuscript is held by the Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library. (We thank Leslie Tobias Olsen for clarifying the historical context of this illustration). 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).