In Ginen, the region south of the Kongo was inhabited by the Mbundu people. who, during the early 1500’s, called their kingdom Ndongo.This small kingdom was ruled by Ngola Kiluanje from 1515 to 1556.During his reign, he enlarged the kingdom and called it after himself, Angola. His name was variably pronounced as Ngol, Ngolo or Ngola. This popular king of Angola, was also called Ngola Inene (Nennen) meaning the Great King.In Haiti the Creole word for king, wa, was added to Ngol or to Ngolo to becomeWangòl or Wangolo.
The Mbundu people spoke Kibundu, a language closely related and mutually intelligible with Kikongo. The strong relationship between these two cultures helps to point to their common origin in the more distant past. It is because of this Creole and Kibundu fusion that King Ngola Kiluanje is remembered in Haiti as Lwa Wangòl. He is a Lwa because like the saints of Europe, he is a distinguished African Ancestor.
King Ngola Kiluanje is also known as Bazou Mennen. In some traditional songs, Bazou is referred to as Bazou Mennen Wa Wangòl. Bazou may be a variant pronunciation of banzou meaning the thinker in the Bafiote language of West Central Africa. Bazou is derived from the verb banza meaning to think.King Ngola Kiluanje was so popular among his subjects that he is remembered in Cuba as an Ancestral spirit.In Haiti he is lavished with compliments; he is called Bazou Mennen Wa Wangòl meaning the Great Thinking King of Angola.
At its peak, Angola was a kingdom of about 150,000 people on 50,000 square miles. It was about twice the size of the entire island of Haiti. Traditionally, the Ndongo Kingdom was a satellite state of the Kongo. For this reason, in Haiti,Wangòl is known to have been a part of the Kongo and the Mbundu people are referred to as nanchon Kongo-Wangòl. The Mbundu region was composed of 736 city states, each with its own ruler called sobas or fidalgo in Portuguese. Fidalgo means prince and was also said as Figaro. The figaros were often appointed by the King of the Kongo to serve a 3 year term. With increasing Portuguese influence in the region, on rare occasions some of these figaros were captured and taken into slavery. It is because of this history that Lakou Soukri, a Kongo-Wangòl institution in Haiti, is reported to have been founded by Figaro who was guided by the former great thinker, Lwa Bazou Mennen.
Once the Portuguese arrived to the region in 1483, the balanced of power in the Kongo controlled vassal states began to shift. Some of these states sought to ally themselves with the Portuguese to obtain modern weapons so that they could extricate themselves from Kongolese domination. King Ngola Kiluanji sent an ambassador to Portugal in 1518 and again in 1549 to attract Christian missions to Angola so as to curry favor with the Portuguese King for military support. The first missionaries arrived from Portugal in 1520 and were shortly thereafter arrested for subversive activities.
King Angola Kiluanje’s son, Ndambi a Ngola, inherited power from his father and ruled briefly from 1556 to 1562.During his short years on the thrown, he continued the efforts to develop military and commercial exchanges with Portugal. Following his death, power was passed to his son, Ngola Kiluanje Kia Ndambi. In 1565, this new king learned from King Bernado I of the Kongo that the Christian missionaries in Angola were there to help conquer Angola so as to gain control of the kingdom’s rock salt and silver mines.
He arrested the missionaries but allowed one of them, Dias de Novais, with whom he had an amicable relationship, to return to Portugal. He may have allowed Dias de Novais to leave hoping that Dias de Novais would be able to negotiate with the King of Portugal for a more favorable military partnership with Angola. This priest returned to Angola in 1575 with 600 Portuguese soldiers.Trusting their good relationship, King Ngola Kiluanje Kia Ndambi planned to allow Dias de Novais’ forces to settle in Angola as a military ally, but the king died before the Portuguese force landed. Dias de Novais had the secret mission given to him by King Sabastiao of Portugal to conquer Angola for the commerce of people as slaves, and to take control of the mines. King Sabastiao also asked Dias de Novais to build a church in Angola dedicated to St. Sabastian, a project that would also flatter the king’s name.
The Portuguese forces arrived at an unstable time in Angola. The legitimate king had recently died and there was a disputed succession.The new ruler, King Njinga Ngola Kilombo Ki Kasenda (1575-1592) assumed the throne through a contested vote. Many figaros opposed his rule and to remain in office, he became brutally repressive. His lack of popularity pushed his enemies to make alliances among themselves as well as with the Portuguese so as to expel him from the throne.In Haiti, this vicious king is remembered as Wangòl Kriminèl.
Meantime, Dias de Novais made allies with other nearby kingdoms and together they attacked Angola and this led to 75 years of war. During the later years of those wars, resistance to Portuguese expansion was led by Queen Ana Ngola Nzinga, who controlled much of Angola and was known as the Queen of the Kongo. In Haiti, she is remembered as Larèn Kongo. She was born in 1582 and died in 1663.It is following her death that the Portuguese took control of the rest of Angola and of Matanba, two regions that she controlled.
Larèn Kongo’s name has numerous variations. This resulted in the Ana becoming Inan in Haiti where she is also called Manbo Inan, the wife of Bazou.In reality, Bazou or King Ngola Kiluanje was one of her great grandparents, and not her spouse. The term “wife” in Vodou is at times used to mean “identical with”. The term is used to link people who have similar objectives. Ngola Kiluanje and Larèn Kongo are considered to have served similar historical missions. They both helped to protect the integrity of the Angolan territory and for that, they are remembered as a pair, Bazou Mennen and Mambo Inan.
For more on Bazou Mennen Wa Wangòl, see the song of the month, Wangolo W Ale.