Jacob Platin

A Brief Background of the Kingdom of Kongo
The Kingdom of Kongo was important to the Atlantic World due to many reasons which include to abundance of slaves, the relationship with Portugal and many other factors. The Kingdom of Kongo stretched from the Loje or Kwanza River in the south and from the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and finally the Kwango River in the east. The Kingdom ruled from 1390-1914. The Kingdomof Kongo is important to history because it was really the first African nation/empire to make contact with the Europeans (West Africa) and was also the first African empire to reach global attention. The Kingdom of Kongo was founded in the 14th century and was originally thought to be settled upon in the lower stretches of the Congo River. It was founded by a dynasty of leaders from Mpemba Kasi, which was a a kingdom in the central-west part of Africa, who built up their rule along the Kweilu valley. When they eventually died, they were buried in Nsi Kwilu which was the suspected capital of Mpemba Kasi. At some point in around 1375, the ruler of Mpemba Kasi made an alliance with the ruler of the neighboring Mbata Kingdom, and the Kongo Kingdom was born out of this alliance/connection.

Area of Inhabitants

The Kingdom of Kongo was thought to have been originally established somewhere along the River Congo in the 14-15th centuries. The people didn’t really migrate, immigrate, or colonize instead, like many other countries in Central Africa fought battles and wars to capture territory and land. This also helped the Slave Trade due to the high numbers of POWs.

The Kingdom covered many modern day countries including: the DRC, The Republic of Congo, Angola, and more
Through many years of tough battles they came to their climax in the 15th and 16th centuries. At this time they would have covered parts of the DRC, The Republic of Congo, Angola, and Cabinda. Due to their location they had many natural materials including ivory, copper, metal, and other important materials, but none of these really helped the empire rise as much as the Slave Trade, Portuguese exploration, and turmoil that Africa was in at the time. One of the main reasons that the country evaporated and fell apart was due to the Portuguese deciding to explore further south since the Kingdom relied on Portugal, also the slave trade fell apart which was a crucial part of the Kingdom’s economical success.


In around 1400, Nimi a Lukeni became the founder of Kongo when he conquered the Kingdom of Mewene Kabunga which was town on a mountain to his south. He transferred his rule to this mountain, the Mongo dia Kongo or "Mountain of Kongo", and made Mbanza Kongo, the town there, his capital. By the time of the first recorded contact with the Europeans, the Kingdom of Kongo was a highly developed state at the center of a large and prosperous trading network.

A nkisi object, these are thought to have contained spirits
A nkisi object, these are thought to have contained spirits


The Original religion of the Kongo people was a polytheistic religion, but was based on Nzambi, a supreme ruler. The next most powerful ruler(s) were the land, sky, and ancestor spirits all of these spirits are represented in nkisi object form which are thought of to contain spiritual powers or spirits. The first conversions took place in small villages along the Congo River when a Portuguese explorer (Diogo Cao) sailed up the Congo River in order to bring Christianity to the people of Africa and spread it. Eventually the ruler at the time, Nzinga a Nkuwu converted to Christianity and his son, Afonso declared it the national religion. In addition to the Portuguese, in the 17th century the first party of Capuchin arrived as missionaries but didn’t affect the country very much. The French missionaries who worked north of the Kongo River between 1766 and 1776 had a different attitude from that of the Capuchins to the south. They were well liked by the people, and took care to learn the local language well, convinced that without this their work would lack stability. In the Kongo Kingdom itself Christianity failed to become truly indigenous, and gradually died out after the Portuguese interest shifted southwards to Loanda.

Everyday Life / Economy

The day to day of life of a person of Kongo and the economy of Kongo are similar because both revolve mostly around labor, relaxation for the upper class, and religion (minorly). Every day (today and back then) the economy is and was supported by regular people fishing, hunting, and agricultural production. With the labor also came taxes from the government who also forced labor (slavery in a way) and collected fines as a form of punishment. In order to prosper, slavery was needed along with the trading of ivory, certain metals, and copper. The daily life of a lower class and upper class (sometimes) person of the Kingdom of Kongo revolved around labor. This started at a young age when kids would learn all of the basics about work and by the early teen years they would start hunting,
fishing, and farming/managing agricultural products. A person of a higher class would experience a different type of work, if they had to work. The upper class experienced relaxation, but also had to pay taxes except for the highest of the officials. If they had to work they would work with the king and council to make important decisions about the direction and changes of the country.

The relationship between the Portuguese and the people of Kongo, it also depicts some lower class labor/jobs.
The relationship between the Portuguese and the people of Kongo, it also depicts some lower class labor/jobs.

Political and Social Systems

The all-powerful, Manikongo

The Kingdom of Kongo had a fair or arguably unfair social and political system because it was overseen by many officials and supported slavery/forced labor. The Manikongo or king ruled supreme and was the highest position in the Kongo government. He was elected by a group of governors, usually the heads of important families that originated in or around the Kingdom, sometimes highly respected Portuguese officials would vote or have a say aswell. The Manikongo had to be a male descendant of Wene/be from the Kingdom of Kongo. The activities of court were by a vast array of civil servants and the council/court itself contained many male descendants of the king. On the other hand the villages were governed by lesser relatives of the kings who were responsible to him. The leader of the village was called a chief and was responsible for protecting and overseeing the village. The social system of Kongo was very loose and the Europeans were shocked to find men that dressed like women. But there was a lower, working class, and a higher class which enjoyed many luxuries including the luxury of not having to work very hard.

Arts/Technology/Developed Culture

The people of Kongo were also centered around trading along with art but technology never really fit in. To start off, the Kingdom of Kongo never really invented or perfected any technologies and used basic methods or tools to do their day to day tasks. Most of the more of advanced technology was brought by the Portuguese and was not invented by the people of Kongo. What of the Kingdom of Kongo lacked in technology they made up for in trading. First, because of their geographic location they would trade metals and ivory with the neighboring communities. Then the trade really toke off when forced labor and slavery was encouraged by the Portuguese. Slavery began in the Kingdom well before the Portuguese came and was very successful, at least in terms of the governments stand point. When slavery was encouraged by the Portuguese, slavery became a key focus in the developed culture/trade in the Kingdom of Kongo. They would trade slaves for sugar, gold, and more, for ivory, sometimes gold, metals, and more. The art of the people of Kongo was also very unique. The arts were geared mostly toward those of the upper class. The main form of art were the nkisi objects which supposedly contained spirits. The nkisi figures were one of the only forms of art the everyone could own.


The people of Kongo were also hard working but the government and the shifting of the Portugal’s attention to the south eventually brought the Kingdom to its knees. While the Kingdom lasted well beyond the Atlantic World age, it was never as strong as the 1400-1500s when they ruled a majorityof Central Africa. A key necessity in the Kingdoms economical success was slavery, when the started Portuguese decided to explore further south the contact with Europe went with, so slavery and trade to fade with the outside world. Then the country went into turmoil when people started to revolt against the government, but this was much later. By the 1900s, the Kingdom was split up into different coun tries. The Kingdom of Kongo did have an affect on the world because it showed how a country from a place thought of as a “slave country” could create an empire, ironically using slaves to get there, and then fall and go into a state or turmoil. The Kingdom of Kongo had no real lasting affects or pieces of work/technology other than the work of the great artisans who made fine pottery, but mostly the Kingdom of Kongo has been forgotten even though it was formidable empire at the time. The Kingdom of Kongo was a great and well-feared empire but never got the respect it deserved and slowly faded away from history.

Works Cited

. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. "Angola:Kingdom of Kongo." Library
of Congress Country Studies. N.p., Feb. 1989.
Web. 27 Sept. 2011. <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/
cstdy:@field(DOCID+ao0014)>. It has information on the dates of
important events and information on the rise and fall or the country
. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. Arts&LifeinAfrica. "Kongo
Information." Arts and Life in Africa. N.p., 3 Nov.
1998. Web. 27 Sept. 2011.
Kongo.html>. It has a
great amount of info, including the economy,
political systems and religion
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. The History Files. "Angola and the
Kingdom of Kongo." The History Files. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 27 Sept. 2011.
AfricaAngola.htm>. It
has the dates of many important events in the
history of the Kingdom of Kongo
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. Infoplease. "Kingdom of Kongo."
Infoplease . Infoplease , n.d. Web. 26 Sept.
2011. <http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0828072.html>. It
is very concise and gives a good brief overview about the Kingdom of Kongo,
who discovered it, and how it generally impacted history.
.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. Ngoyo, Mangovo. "History of the Kingdom
of Kongo." African Federation. N.p., 19
Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Sept. 2011. <http://www.africafederation.net/
Kongo_History.htm>. It has great
info, maps which are very helpful and
give great detail on the location of the country, who ruled they
country and how, and many more helpful facts. It also has tons and tons and
tons of information.
N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2011. Wikipedia. "Kingdom of Kongo."
WIkipedia. Wikipedia, n.d. Web. 26 Sept. 2011.
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kongo>. It is a great
source with tons of information which includes the history, location,
wars/battles, and much more information that will eventually help me with
my project.
The King of Kongo. N.d. Wikimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.
300px-Congoking.jpg>. Google Images and Wikimedia

The Kongo Economy . N.d. Cdn.Dipity.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.
7e56710c81ab4aef352a38577e383b3a_1M.png>. Google Images and
A nkisi object . N.d. Metmuseum. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2011.
<http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/images/h2/h2_1979.206.127.jpg>. Met
Museum and Google Images