Zumbi

Zumbi

Legend has it, that Zumbi was the greatest leader of the most famous Quilombo in Brazil’s history. Often referred to as King Zumbi. Zumbi became an icon for his own people, and some believed that he was part human and part God, that he was inhabited by African minds of Orixás. Others thought that he was the son of Ogum.

Who was Zumbi dos Palmares

Zumbi was also known as Zumbi dos Palmares, he was a Brazilian of Kongo origin and a quilombo leader, being one of the pioneers of resistance to slavery of Africans by the Portuguese in Brazil. He was also the last of the kings of the Quilombo dos Palmares, a settlement of Afro-Brazilian people who had liberated themselves from enslavement in that same settlement, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil. Zumbi today is revered in Afro-Brazilian culture as a powerful symbol of resistance against the enslavement of Africans in the colony of Brazil. He was married to the queen and also great warrior Dandara.

Zumbi was born in 1655 in the countryside near Recife, in the Pernambuco. Zumbi was born free in Quilombo but was kidnapped as a child by soldiers and given to a priest by the name of Father António Mélo. He was educated by the priest, who taught him to speak latin, portuguese and to be a Christian. When he turned 15, he ran away in the jungle, heading to Palmares, his original home in the Quilombo.

He soon became a respected military strategist and an expert in the Capoeira self-defence, the art of escape used by the people to defend against repeated attacks by Portuguese colonizers seeking free labour for growing sugar plantations.

Ganga Zumba and Zumbi

Zumbi's mother Sabina was a sister of Ganga Zumba, who is said to have been the son of princess Aqualtune, daughter of an unknown King of Kongo. It is unknown if Zumbi's mother was also daughter of the princess, but this still makes him related to the Kongo nobility. Zumbi and his relatives are of Central African descent. They were brought to the Americas after the Battle of Mbwila.

By 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco approached the Quilombo dos Palmares leader Ganga Zumba with an offer to give freedom to all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to Portuguese authority.

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 Zumbi – who became the commander-in-chief of the Kingdom's forces in 1675 - because he was distrustful of the Portuguese. Zumbi refused to accept freedom for the people of Palmares while other Africans remained enslaved. He rejected Almeida's overture and challenged Ganga Zumba's kingship.

Zumbi then 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. After the death of Ganga Zumba, Zumbi became the new leader of the Quilombo and continued in leading the fight against slavery and Portuguese oppression..

Zumbi death

In 1694, the Portuguese army attacks Palmares, lead by Domingos Jorge Velho and Vieira de Melo. Palmares is invaded and destroyed, the whole population is slaughtered. In the conflict between Quilombos and the Portuguese, Zumbi is harmed, but he manages to escape and go into hiding.

On November 20, 1695, Zumbi is betrayed by a general of the Quilombo, named Antônio Soares who had been tortured and revealed where Zumbi was hiding. Once found, Zumbi was stabbed in the stomach and killed by the Portuguese army in the Serra Dois Irmãos.

His body is mutilated and kept in salt to preserve it, and sent to Porto Calvo. His body showed how he had been ill-treated : there are more than 15 bullets, numerous knife strokes, his penis cut off and placed in his mouth. His decapitated head was exposed like a trophy on a place of Recife, to show the slaves that Zumbi wasn’t immortal and that the struggle against Palmares was over.

Till date, his date of death is commemorated every year to remember the telling contributions he made to the Black struggle against colonialism and the black consciousness movement. The day has special meaning for Afro-Brazilians, who honor him as a hero, freedom fighter, and a symbol of freedom. Zumbi was the last of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.