Kingdoms of Central Africa
Central Africa is a large region covered with rainforest and savanna grasslands. People have lived in this region for thousands of years. One of the first civilizations to develop here was the Sao Civilization in modern-day Chad and Cameroon. The Sao civilization began as early as 500 BCE. Over time, other kingdoms rose and fell in Central Africa. We will discuss some of the major kingdoms below.
Kingdoms of Central Africa
Kingdom of Zimbabwe
The Kingdom of Zimbabwe came into power around 1200 CE and ruled for over 200 years. It was located in the current modern-day country of Zimbabwe. At the center of the kingdom was the famous city of Great Zimbabwe. Great Zimbabwe was a large city where an estimated 18,000 people lived during its peak. It was the center of power and trade in Central and Southern Africa for many years. Today, the large stone walls and towers of Great Zimbabwe still stand.
The Kingdom of the Kongo rose to power at the end of the 1300s. It ruled a large area of Central Africa until 1914 when it became a colony of Portugal. The king of the Kongo was called the Monikongo. In 1483, the Portuguese arrived. They brought with them Christianity and trade relations. They also brought with them the slave trade. Over time, the slave trade began to weaken the Kongo. Some rulers, most notably Manikongo Afonso I, attempted to stop the slave trade. However, they were unsuccessful. By the late 1800s, the kingdom was collapsing and was taken over by the Portuguese in 1914.
The Kingdom of Luba formed in Central Africa in 1585. It ruled a large region in the modern-day country of the Democratic Republic of Congo up until 1889. Luba was ruled by both a king, called the Mulpwe, and a council of elders, called the Bamfumus. The first king of Luba was Llunga Mbili. His eldest son, Kalala Llunga, was considered the greatest of the Luba kings. His second son, Tshibinda Llunga, founded the Lunda Kingdom.
The Lunda Kingdom was established in 1665 by Tshibinda Llunga, brother of the King of Luba. The Lunda expanded to the east, conquering other tribes and gaining territory. The government of the Lunda was very similar to that of the Luba with a ruling king and a council. The Kingdom continued to grow until the late 1800s when European powers arrived and colonized the region.
The Kingdom of Mutapa ruled a large region in Central Africa in the modern-day countries of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It was first established in 1430 by a warrior leader from the Kingdom of Zimbabwe. The kingdom grew and became wealthy from mining gold and trading ivory. It established trade relations with Portugal in the 1500s. The kingdom collapsed when civil war broke out in 1759 upon the death of the king.
The ruins of Great Zimbabwe by Jan Derk
Interesting Facts about the Kingdoms of Central Africa
- Some of the most valuable items in Central Africa were dried fish, cloth, and salt.
- It is thought that Great Zimbabwe extended its trade network as far as China and the Middle East.
- The people of Central Africa mostly speak the Bantu languages and are often called the Bantu peoples.
- Swahili is a Bantu language. You have likely heard some Swahili words such as "simba", which means lion, and "safari", which means journey.
To learn more about Ancient Africa:
History >> Ancient Africa