PRE-COLONIAL AFRICAN KINGDOM OF KONGO: ONCE A GREAT COLOSUS Kingdom of Kongo also known as Kongo dya Ntotila or Wene wa Kongois ranks among the most famous kingdoms in sub-Saharan Africa. The kingdom located in southwest Africa. It is now northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo, and the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.The empire consisted of six provinces ruled by a monarch, the Manikongo of the Bakongo (Kongo peoples). BANZA KONGO , Capital of the Kingdom of Kongo At its greatest extent, it reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Kwango River in the east, and from the Congo River in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The kingdom consisted of several core provinces ruled by the Manikongo, the Portuguese version of the Kongo title 'Mwene Kongo', meaning lord or ruler of the Kongo kingdom, but its sphere of influence extended to neighbouring kingdoms, such as Ngoyo, Kakongo, Ndongo and Matamba. Map of Kingdom of Kongo When the leader of the first Portuguese expedition, the navigator Diogo Cao, landed in 1483 in the Zaïre estuary, he was astonished to discover the existence of a centralised political state, an African replica of the Portuguese kingdom (Vansina 1966; Randles 1968; Ekholm 1972). The Portuguese first dealt with this kingdom accordingly, on a more or less equal basis, exchanging ambassadors. Portuguese audience bowing before the King of Kongo The king of Kongo was baptised in 1491 by the Portuguese who gave him the name of their king, Joao. Under his successor, Afonso, Christianity spread even further throughout the kingdom. However, instead of becoming a religion of the masses, it was adopted by a small ruling elite who made it a royal cult, reinforcing their political authority. One of Afonso’s sons was even ordained a bishop as early as 1518, the first black bishop ever. Capuchin Missionary and his Entourage being Greeted in Front of Village, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986) The missionaries, who were mainly Jesuits and Capucins, the traders and officials, left behind a vivid description of the development of the kingdom which permitted a detailed reconstruction of the daily lives of its inhabitants at a time when their civilization was at its peak (Balandier 1965). Their highly centralized political structure allowed them to rule over an area of 150,000 km2, almost the size of Uganda, stretching south of the Zaïre estuary. They acquired a mastery of metallurgy, law, weaving and textiles. The art of the Kongo remains, even today, one of the most elaborate in Africa, making use of wood, cloth, terra cotta and even stones. Kongo not only survived contact with the Portuguese but continued expansion and development into a centralized state until the start of the civil wars in the late seventeenth century (Thorton 1979; Thorton 1983; Hilton 1985). The memory of this magnificent kingdom which proclaimed very early the achievements of black men, is still present in the minds of many intellectuals and leaders of Africa today. The Kingdom of Kongo (1400– 1914) Origin of Kongo Kingdom From 500 B.C.E, some Bantu-speaking people began migrating south and east from a region south of the Sahara near the present-day Cameron. By 500 B.C.E, the Bantu population were firmly established in the savanna region near Congo (formerly Zaire) River in what is today known as northern Angola. There they cultivated the land using the iron-technology they brought, raise animals, made iron tools and weapons to conquer the indigenous San people (Bushmen), and developed a complex social and political systems. The Kingdom of Kongo was formed around 1375. Traditions collected in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries attribute the foundation of the kingdom to a mythical hero Ntinu Lukeni (circa 1380-1420) who, coming from the north, crossed the Zaïre river and conquered the area south of it. According to Historian Jean Cuvelier "Lukeni lua Nimi or Nimi a Lukeni, became the founder of Kongo when he conquered the kingdom of the Mwene Kabunga (or Mwene Mpangala), which lay upon a mountain to his south, after crossing Nzadi from his father's kingdom on the north bank, the historical kingdom of Vungu. The original inhabitants of the area were large-headed dwarfs called BaMbakambaka, Mbwidi-Mbodila, and BaFula Mengo. He transferred his rule to this mountain, the Mongo dia Kongo or "mountain of Kongo", and made Mbanza Kongo, the town there, his capital. Two centuries later the Mwene Kabunga's descendants still symbolically challenged the conquest in an annual celebration. The rulers that followed Lukeni all claimed some form of relation to his kanda or lineage and were known as the Kilukeni. The Kilukeni kanda or "house" as recorded in Portuguese documents would rule Kongo unopposed until 1567." The king of Kongo thereafter was the embodiment of the cosmological world of the Bakongo, he had direct links with the forces that affected its prosperity, he controlled the weather, he could summon the dead, and he was able to bless his subjects with a movement of his fingers. After the death of Nimi a Lukeni, his brother, Mbokani Mavinga, took over the throne and ruled until approximately 1367. He had two wives and nine children. His rule saw an expansion of the Kingdom of Kongo to include the neighbouring state of Loango and other areas now encompassed by the current Republic of Congo. The Mwene Kongos often gave the governorships to members of their family or its clients. As this centralization increased, the allied provinces gradually lost influence until their powers were only symbolic, manifested in Mbata, once a co-kingdom, but by 1620 simply known by the title "Grandfather of the King of Kongo" (Nkaka'ndi a Mwene Kongo). Portuguese Emissaries Received by the King of Kongo, late 16th cent Duarte Lopes, Regnum Congo hoc est warhaffte und eigentliche , Congo in Africa (Franckfort am Mayn, 1609) The Portuguese first arrived in Kongo in 1485, and were regarded as visitors from the land of the dead. Nzinga Nkuwu, king of the Bakongo was baptised in 1491, and while he gave up Christianity two or three years later, his son Afonso, persisted in the faith. During the 16th Century efforts to convert all the Bakongo continued through the work of the Jesuits. Capuchin Missionary Entering Village, Sogno, Kingdom of Kongo, 1740s Paola Collo and Silvia Benso ,Sogno Bamba, Pemba, Ovando (Milan, 1986) From the end of the 'old kingdom' in 1678, to the arrival of the colonial administration, the slave trade and a free sense of trade between Africans and Europeans dominated the costal region and certainly influenced the future developments in Kongo society.