Queen Anna Nzinga Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande, was a 17th-century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in Angola
Queen Nzinga was born to Ngola (King) Kiluanji and Kangela in 1583. According to tradition, she was named Nzinga because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck (the Kimbundu verb kujinga means to twist or turn). It was said to be an indication that the person who had this characteristic would be proud and haughty (and a wise women said to her mother that Nzinga will become queen one day.) According to her recollections later in life, she was greatly favoured by her father, who allowed her to witness as he governed his kingdom, and who carried her with him to war.
In 1626 Nzinga became Queen of the Mbundu when her brother committed suicide in the face of rising Portuguese demands for slave trade concessions. Nzinga, however, refused to allow them to control her nation. In 1627, after forming alliances with former rival states, she led her army against the Portuguese, initiating a thirty year war against them. She exploited European rivalry by forging an alliance with the Dutch who had conquered Luanda in 1641. With their help, Nzinga defeated a Portuguese army in 1647. When the Dutch were in turn defeated by the Portuguese the following year and withdrew from Central Africa, Nzinga continued her struggle against the Portuguese. Now in her 60s she still personally led troops in battle. She also orchestrated guerilla attacks on the Portuguese which would continue long after her death and inspire the ultimately successful 20th Century armed resistance against the Portuguese that resulted in independent Angola in 1975.Despite repeated attempts by the Portuguese and their allies to capture or kill Queen Nzinga, she died peacefully in her eighties on December 17, 1663.
Whoever gave this comb to his wife more than 200 years ago must have loved her dearly. Carefully carved and made of precious materials (elephant ivory and gold folio), it’s something the owner would have shown off, perhaps even wearing it in her hair. It would signal that she was among the wealthy elite of Zanzibar, and had married well.