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Gamga Zumbi (film poster)
*The birth of Ganga Zumba is celebrated on this date in c 1630.
He was the first leader of the vast escaped Afro-Brazilian slave settlement of Quilombo dos Palmares, or Angola Janga, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil. Ganga Zumba is said to have been the son of princess Aqualtune, daughter of an unknown king of the central African country, the Congo. She led a battalion at the Battle of Mbwila.
The Portuguese won the battle, eventually killing 5,000 men and capturing the king, his two sons, his two nephews, four governors, various court officials, 95 title holders and 400 other nobles, who were put on ships in the. Middle Passage and sold as slaves in the Americas. It's likely that Ganga was among these captives. The whereabouts of the rest of them is unknown. Some are believed to have been sent to Spanish America, but Ganga Zumba, his Brother Zona and his sister Sabina (mother of Zumbi dos Palmares, his nephew and successor) were made slaves at the plantation of Santa Rita in the Portuguese Captaincy of Pernambuco in what is now northeast Brazil, which at the time was controlled by the Dutch.
From there they escaped to Palmares. A quilombo or mocambo was a community of runaway slaves who were kidnapped to Brazil (from present-day Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Congo-Brazzaville) that escaped their bondage and fled into the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed maroon settlements. As many as ten separate mocambos had formed and ultimately coalesced into a Quilombo of Palmares confederation under a king, Ganga Zumba. Zumba, who ruled the biggest of the villages, Cerro dos Macacos, presided the mocambo's chief council and was considered the King of Palmares. The nine other settlements were headed by his relatives. Zumbi was chief of one community and his brother, Andalaquituche, headed another.
By the 1670s, Ganga Zumba had a palace, three wives, guards, ministers, and devoted subjects at his royal compound. The compound consisted of 1,500 houses for his family, guards, and officials, all of which were considered royalty. He was given respect and honor. In 1678, Zumba accepted a peace treaty offered by the Portuguese Governor of Pernambuco, which required that the Palmarinos relocate to Cucaú Valley. The treaty was challenged by his nephew Zumbi who led a revolt against him. In the confusion that followed, Ganga Zumba was poisoned, most likely by one of his own relatives for entering into a treaty with the Portuguese. And many of his followers who had moved to the Cucaú Valley were re-enslaved by the Portuguese. Resistance to the Portuguese then continued under Zumbi.
The Brazilian film Ganga Zumba was made in 1963 but was not released until 1972 because there was a military coup in Brazil in 1964, and films about revolutions, even those taking place in the 17th century, were considered politically dangerous. The film is based on João Felício dos Santo's novel, and focuses on a black slave who ends up in Palmares. The film is about Black liberation and keeps a Black racial perspective. Zumba was a slave who escaped bondage on a sugar plantation and eventually rose to the position of authority within the kingdom of Palmares, and the resultant title of Ganga Zumba. Although some Portuguese documents regard Ganga Zumba as his proper name, and this name is widely used today, the most important of the documents translates the name as "Great Lord." In Kikongo, nganga a nzumbi was "the priest responsible for the spiritual defense of the community" which was a kilombo or military settlement made up multiple groups. A letter written to him by the governor of Pernambuco in 1678 and now found in the Archives of the University of Coimbra, calls him "Ganazumba," which is a better translation of "Great Lord" (in Kimbundu).