Angola’s Ancient Past

Out of the numerous ancient African cultures and kingdoms, Angola was one of the hardest ones to figure out their history prior to colonialism. Here are some sound sources to help people who are interested in finding out Angola’s past, prior to colonialism.

Modern Angola emerged mainly out of the territory of the former Kongo kingdom which encompassed much of the Lower Congo and northern Angola. The region, and the native Bantu kingdom, was a Portuguese colonial territory during the late nineteenth century and much of the twentieth century. Before that, it had seven hundred years of recorded or remembered history, and up to three thousand years of settlement. People speaking ancient versions of Kikongo probably arrived in the region encompassing the modern Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Gabon from the north as part of the larger Bantu migration. They were practicing agriculture by at least 1000 BC, and working iron by at least 400 BC.

The King of Angola would have been the King of the Kongo Kingdom, encompassing what is known today as northern Angola, Cabinda, the Republic of the Congo and the western portion of the Democratic republic of the Congo. The Dynasty lasted from 1400-1914 (though the record is unclear between 1718 and 1793). The ruling kings of Angola during the time of the Haitian Revolution would most likely have been Dom Henrique III Afonso Nlengi, King of Kongo (Manikongo) 1793-1802, Dom Alvaro XI Afonso Kafvasa, King of Kongo (Manikongo) 1802, and Dom Garcia V Afonso Ne Nkanga a Nvembi, King of Kongo (Manikongo) 1802-1830.

More information on traditional culture of Angola and outside influences.

The sport of capoeria is also very popular among young people in Angola. It is said to have originated among Angolan slaves who were taken to Brazil. Here, the slaves practised this unusual combination of dance and martial arts as a way to channel aggression and express themselves.

750-1900 Centuries of Greatness, The West African Kingdoms by Philip Koslow

Centuries of Greatness, is a great book to start off with, for those who do not know much about Ghana’s ancient history or West Africa’s ancient past as a collective.  You will learn immensely on the politics, economics, education, diverse ethnic groups, advancement in technology and more, from reading this book written by Philip Koslow. It will also dispel many myths on how sexuality was viewed, in addition to spiritual and religious beliefs.

For example, as Ibn Battuta traveled throughout Mali; he marveled at the beauty of the women who were treated with great respect and did not follow the Muslim practice of covering their faces in the presence of men. He also noted that the people of Mali were very free in sexual matters, with married men and women often having “companions” outside the family. He wrote:

A man may go into his house and find his wife entertaining her “companian”, but he takes no objection to it. One day at Walata I went into the qadi’s house. . . and found him with a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome with shame, and qadi said to me “Why are you going out? She is my companion.” I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a pilgrim to boot. I was told that he had asked the sultan’s permission to make the pilgrimage [to Mecca] that year with his “companion” (whether this one or not I cannot say) but the sultan would not grant it.

Disclaimer; every culture with in Africa wasn’t exactly the same. Some had stricter codes or guidelines towards sexual activity, but usually in most of the cultures; people weren’t killed for their personal beliefs and attitudes towards the subject.


Upper classes in society converted to Islam while lower classes often continued to follow traditional religions. Sermons emphasized obedience to the king. Timbuktu was the educational capital. Sonni Ali established a system of government under the royal court, later to be expanded by Askia Muhammad, which appointed governors and mayors to preside over local tributary states, situated around the Niger valley. Local chiefs were still granted authority over their respective domains as long as they did not undermine Songhai policy.

Tax was imposed onto peripheral chiefdoms and provinces to ensure the dominance of Songhai, and in return these provinces were given almost complete autonomy. Songhai rulers only intervened in the affairs of these neighboring states when a situation became volatile; usually an isolated incident. Each town was represented by government officials, holding positions and responsibilities similar to today’s central bureaucrats.

Under Askia Muhammad, the Empire saw increased centralization. He encouraged learning in Timbuktu by rewarding its professors with larger pensions as an incentive. He also established an order of precedence and protocol and was noted as a noble man who gave back generously to the poor. Under his policies, Muhammad brought much stability to Songhai.


The number and frequency of conquests in the late 13th century and throughout the 14th century indicate the Kolonkan mansas inherited and or developed a capable military. Sundjata is credited with at least the initial organization of the Manding war machine. However, it went through radical changes before reaching the legendary proportions proclaimed by its subjects. Thanks to steady tax revenue and stable government beginning in the last quarter of the 13th century, the Mali Empire was able to project its power throughout its own extensive domain and beyond.

The Mali Empire maintained a semi-professional, full-time army in order to defend its borders. The entire nation was mobilized with each clan obligated to provide a quota of fighting age men. These men had to be freemen and appear with their own arms. Contemporary historians present during the height and decline of the Mali Empire consistently record its army at 100,000 with 10,000 of that number being made up of cavalry. With the help of the river clans, this army could be deployed throughout the realm on short notice.

Banjo Ancestors and Its Origin

Though many people think that the banjo is the all-American instrument, born and developed in the good ol’ U. S. of A., they’re only telling you a partial truth and a very small part of the whole story. What they are thinking of is the 5-string banjo donned by such greats as Earl Scruggs and Bela Fleck. It’s the most prevalent type of banjo in many popular styles of American music such as Bluegrass, Dixieland, and Country, so naturally, being exposed to no other types of banjos, one would assume that the 5-string IS the banjo.

In reality the banjo originated hundreds of years ago somewhere on the African continent. These instruments were quite simple and rough – an animal skin tacked on to a hollowed half of a gourd with three or four strings stretched over a planed stick (keep in mind, too, that there were no such things as frets back then). The strings were often made from waxed horsehair or gut. One name for this instrument was the banjar. (Isn’t it interesting that the pronunciation of this native-African word from ages ago is still being used by the back-woodsy American folk of today?) Anyway…

The story of the banjo begins in the 17th century when African slaves in the New World began making and playing lute-type string instruments with drum-like gourd bodies. In 1678, the French colonial government of Martinique restated an edict issued twenty four years earlier prohibiting African slaves from gathering together for dances and socializing. The new ordinance specified kalendas. More commonly known as la calinda(also calenda), the kalenda was a social gathering of slaves in which they danced dances of clear African origin to the accompaniment of a drum or two and the banza. (In later years, some reports also mentioned the inclusion of the violin in a typical calinda band.)

Eleven years later, Sir Hans Sloane wrote the first report of the early banjo which gave a description of the instrument. In the account of his 1687 sojourn through the West Indies (written in 1689 but not published until 1707), Sir Hans described the “Negroes” in Jamaica as playing strum-strums, which were “Instruments in imitation of Lutes, made from small Gourds fitted with Necks, strung with Horse hairs, or the peeled stalks of climbing Plants or Withs.”

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