This is a drawing from the 1500s of the capital city of the Kongo Empire
The drawing was first published in a book called `History of the Kingdom of the Kongo` by Filippo Pigafetta,published in Rome in 1591.
In the 1500s,the Kongo Empire covered 1,685 miles and was divided into 6 administrative provinces. The capital city was in the Mpemba province and was called Mbanza Kongo.It had a population of over 100 000 people and as you can imagine from the image above, was highly modern and cosmopolitan. Each province had a governor and each province had a specific role within the empire. There was a financial hub, administrative, legislative, executive and also spiritual authority which managed the affairs of the nation`s souls.( source Wikipedia: Manikongo)
This image is of the city viewed from the Kongo River. It was published in 1668 by Olfert Dapper. You can see the Royal Palace, the largest building, in both images. The writing on the left points out the Royal Palace. The church (Christian) is the structure on the far right with the adjacent dombed building being the Portuguese Fort. The headland behind that in the foreground is labled as `the Spring Wall` which was most likely the source of the city`s pure drinking water. Slaves can be seen carrying water from the river up the cliff to the city.The banner reads – `The Bansa or Residence of the King of the Kongo called St. Salvador`.
A photograph from the 1800s of the ruins of the church of Mbanza Kongo or Sao Salvador as it came to be known.
The entire African continent was an extremely civilized place by the time the first European travellers began discovering and later destroying her people and cultures.
“When they arrived in the Gulf of Guinea and landed at Vaida (in West Africa) the captains were astonished to find streets well laid out, bordered on either side for several leagues by two rows of trees; for days they travelled through a country of magnificent fields, inhabited by men clad in richly coloured garments of their own weaving! Further south in the Kingdom of the Congo(sic.), a swarming crowd dressed in `silk` and `velvet`; great States well-ordered, and down to the most minute details; powerful rulers, flourishing industries-civilized to the marrow of their bones. And the condition of the countries on the eastern coast- Mozambique, for example- was quite the same.”Leo Frobenius, `Histoire de la Civilisation Africaine`, quoted in Anna Melissa Graves, `Africa, the Wonder and the Glory,US, Black Classic Press, (originally 1942),pg4.
Portuguese missionaries wrote of the Kongo…” a well-organized political system with taxes and rates, there was a brilliant court,(and) a great civil service. The state constructed roads, imposed tolls, supported a large army and had a monetary system-of…shells, of which the Mani Congo(sic)…had a monoploly. The Congo Kingdom even had a few satellite states, for example the state of the Ngola (ie Ndongo) in present-day Angola. The original kingdom was about the size of France and Germany put together”
“There is no doubting…the existence of an expert metallurgical art in the ancient Kongo; only the competition of objects from abroad and the slow deterioration brought about its decline. A further proof is provided by recent ethnographic documents. The Bakongo were aware of the toxicity of lead vapours. They devised preventative and curative methods, both pharmacological (massive doses of pawpaw and palm oil) and mechanical (exerting of pressure to free the digestive tract), for combatting lead poisoning.Technology and rational knowledge tried to keep in step.”
the Manikongo, ie, the king. Manikongo is the title in reference to the king`s role as guardian of his people
King Alvaro giving an audience to the Dutch traders in 1642
a young Congo king, Nicolau during a visit to Portugal in 1845
Nzinga (Queen) Ana de Souza Nzingha Mbande ruled from 1623-1663.She is one of Africa`s most loved monarchs because she gave sanctuary to all slaves and made them free. Under her reign the Empire made a final valiant but unsuccessful battle to rid the region of slavery and imperialism .
History is beginning to be re-written according to fact rather than the victors` fiction.The great Senegalese genius of Dr Cheik Anta Diop began the process of re-writing African history. Recently that task has been taken on by Robin Walker with the publication of
all historical quotes in this article are from this remarkable book.