Princess Aqualtune was a brave and powerful Angolan princess who fought against Portuguese colonizers and later escaped slavery to lead a resistance movement in Brazil in the 17th century..
Aqualtune was born to an unknown king in the early 17th century in the Kingdom of Kongo, which was located in what is now Angola, the Republic of Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the time, Kongo was a powerful and wealthy African kingdom that traded extensively with European nations, most notably Portugal. However, tensions arose between Kongo and Portugal due to the Portuguese attempts to control Kongo’s valuable resources. These tensions culminated in the battle of Mbwila in 1665.
Battle of Mbwila
The Battle of Mbwila was a significant event in the history of Central Africa that occurred in 1665. It was fought between the Kingdom of Kongo and the Portuguese who were seeking to expand their territory by subduing the local population. Leading the charge was Princess Aqualtune, who commanded a formidable force of 10,000 men and women. Her expertise in military tactics and ability to galvanize her troops proved pivotal in organizing the battle against the invading Portuguese.
Despite Aqualtune’s valiant efforts, her army suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Portuguese. The battle was brutal and bloody, dealing a devastating blow to the Kingdom of Kongo. Its ruler, King Antonio I, was beheaded, and many of Aqualtune’s soldiers were killed or captured. She herself was taken prisoner, along with thousands of others, including her three children, and transported to Brazil.
Upon arrival in Brazil, Princess Aqualtune was sold into slavery as a breeding slave at the Port of Recife, while her three children, Ganga Zumba, his brother Zona, and his sister Sabina (who was the mother of Zumbi dos Palmares), were made slaves at the Santa Rita plantation in the Portuguese Captaincy of Pernambuco, which was controlled by the Dutch at the time.
Ganga Zumba, Aqualtune’s son, eventually led a rebellion on his plantation and fled with some enslaved Africans (including his brother and sister) to the massive runaway slave settlement of Quilombo dos Palmares, a Maroon nation that controlled large areas of northeast Brazil.
As a breeding slave, Aqualtune’s worth was determined by her capacity to breed offspring, subjecting her to a life of forced reproduction. Eventually, she was sold while carrying a child to a mill in Porto Calvo. Despite the oppressive environment, Aqualtune found a way to break free from her enslavement and journeyed to the Quilombo dos Palmares, a community of runaway slaves, where her son Ganga Zumba was the leader.
Quilombo dos Palmares was a settlement of escaped slaves in colonial Brazil that existed from the late 16th century to the mid-17th century. It was a place of refuge and resistance for enslaved Africans who had escaped their captors. While there is some debate about who founded Quilombo Palmares, it is generally believed that the first settlement was established by a group of fugitive slaves, among whom was Ganga Zumba in the late 16th century, and over time, it grew to include several villages and thousands of inhabitants. Palmares was known for its strong resistance to slavery and its commitment to African culture and traditions.
Aqualtune’s arrival in Palmares was a turning point for the community. She quickly became a leader in the Subupuira quilombo, using her knowledge of Kongo warfare tactics to help the community defend itself against Portuguese attacks. She also formed alliances with other quilombos and indigenous tribes, creating a network of resistance against the Portuguese colonizers. Her leadership skills and her commitment to the welfare of her people earned her the respect of those around her, and she remained a pivotal figure in her people’s struggle for freedom until the end.
Aqualtune died in 1675 under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind a legacy of courage, strength, and unwavering commitment to justice.
Aqualtune’s legacy continued even after her death, as her descendants played prominent roles in the fight against colonialism in Brazil. Her great-grandson, Zumbi dos Palmares, became one of the most famous resistance leaders in Brazil, and his legacy inspired the Black movement in the country.