Larèn Kongo Leve means the Queen of the Kongo rose, and it refers to Queen Zinga’s steadfast resistance against Portuguese expansion into the eastern region of Wangòl (Angola) and into the Matanmba area. Thesetwo territories were once vassal states of the Kongo empire. It was only after the death of Larèn Kongo on December 17, 1663 at the age of 80 that the Portuguese expanded eastward and took over the whole of Angola and of Matanmba.
Larèn Kongo died a natural death in her old age. She did not fall victim to the Portuguese. For this reason, she is perceived as having died at the hand of God and not at the hand of man. In religious terms, Larèn Kongo died when God called her home. This is said in the song as Bondye voye l ale, God took her away. Sèvitès believe God is good and master of everything; for this reason, God is called Bondye and Granmèt. In linking Larèn Kongo’s death to God’s will and in celebrating her opposition to Portuguese conquest, Larèn Kongo is remembered in Haiti as having lived a complete and triumphant life.
In some versions of this song, Larèn Kongo is called Larèn Solèy. Her standing up against Portuguese expansion is presented in the song as her rising up. The term “leve”, for rising, is used to compare Larèn Kongo to the rising sun bringing forth hope and happiness. Her death brought sorrow as the Portuguese captured more and more people to be sold in the commerce of people as slaves.The hopelessness is captured as the children crying. Children are commonly portrayed as the hope for the future. With the Portuguese seizing control of Angola following Larèn Kongo’s death, the children’s tears help to depict the region as having a grim future.Indeed, after Larèn Kongo’s death, Angola became a Portuguese colony and remained so for nearly 300 years.
The era of Portuguese rule and of enslavement following Larèn Kongo’s demise is depicted in the song as a rainy season. This contrasts with the sunny days that represented the time that Larèn Kongo ruled.The pain of this wet season is captured in the multiple “woy”, a word used in Haiti to conjure agony and disbelief. The song ends with “n a plante pwa.” In historical context, ¨plante pwa¨, the planting of peas through the rainy season can mean that despite adversity, we will do what is necessary to plan for a better future. ¨Pwa Kongo¨ are native to the Kongo Angola region. The act of ¨plante pwa¨ symbolizes the hope that the Kongo Angola region would rise again as it did when Angola eventually regained its independence in 1974. Larèn Kongo is Larèn Solèy because she brought hope.She died in the month of December making the analogy with her and the sun all the more poignant. December 21 through December 25 are the shortest days of the year. Her death occurred in December when the days have the least amount of sunlight hours. Her death mirrored the dying sun. Today in Haiti, the short days of December are closely associated with Christmas or the days the Catholic Church chose in the year 324 to celebrate the birth of God on earth. They chose this date because on December 25, the days begin to lengthen again. Throughout Europe,December 25 was celebrated as the day of the newborn sun - a day that restored hope. To capture the festivities associated with that date, the Catholic Church chose to declare that God was born on earth on December 25.Larèn Kongo or Larèn Solèy is known to have died on December 17. Her death coincides with the sun going away as it did over Angola when the Portuguese took it over. This coming winter solstice, as the days get shorter, it recalls the darkest days of December 1663 when Larèn Kongo died and the sun began to set on Wangòl and Matanmba.