Lat: -9.633413997092800, Long: 14.264618994010000


Kwanza Norte, Angola

Historical Background and Urbanism

Massangano, Muxima and Kambambe are three military-based settlements in the region of Kwanza with a resulting development of small villages built around their forts and churches. From their origin and historical development (namely the fight against the Dutch invaders in the 17th century), their specific characteristics and geographical proximity, these are indicators of conquest and colonization which must be analysed as a whole. We present here a general introduction to the region connected to Massangano. The banks of the Kwanza River were, throughout the 16th to the 19th centuries, inhabited by people of various occupations, from agriculture and handicrafts to hunting and fishing. Slaves and surplus production were regularly traded in local markets on a regular basis. In order to ensure the “most abundant ransom” over the course of the Portuguese “conquest” of the kingdom of Ndongo, these centres held a strategic role connected to the Kwanza which was an area of intense trade over that long period. Its control by the Portuguese anticipated rule over both land and people. Based on fortresses raised in high places, vigilance was aimed at both banks and particularly at Kissama which had points of resistance until the 20th century. It was in the presidios that the crown administrators collected the tithe on the fish caught in the lagoons and rivers, and the taxes demanded from the Sobas in their jurisdiction area. As an axis for communication and transport, the Kwanza was traversed by launches, canoes, sailing vessels and steamers for passengers and goods until the 20th century when they were partially replaced by the railway and roads. In addition to small ports such as Tombo, Calumbo and Mbulutu, some existing centres were restructured and the occupation of the territory was reorganized.
Following the first military attacks by Paulo Dias de Novais in the Ndongo territories, due to the location of Massangano at the confluence of the Lucala and the Kwanza rivers, the Portuguese decided to occupy it as a base for the conquest of the territory. The construction of the Vila da Vitória (with church and fortress) started in 1583. This was where Paulo Dias de Novais (1589) and Luís Serrão (1591), in charge of the implementation of a predatory policy to conquer Ngola territory, died and were buried. The presidio was established in 1612 during the rule of Manuel Pereira Forjaz. Nonetheless, until around 1626 numerous battles and conflicts took place between the king of Ndongo and the Portuguese, resulting in a large number of deaths on both sides. Starting in Massangano, the Portuguese conquest extended into the adjoining territories – Kambambe, Muxima, Ambaca, Mpungu-a-Ndongo and Golungo – and the town gradually developed insofar as the political and military importance of the place became vital for Portuguese hegemony in the region. During Dutch rule Massangano received the Portuguese troops that had lost Luanda. This is why it was elevated to town status in 1641 followed by the creation of administrative, legal and religious structures with the construction of buildings for those purposes, since it was the head- quarters of the government of Angola for seven years. The agricultural wealth of the surrounding region provided sufficient flour and other supplies for the population. This was the place where the Portuguese prepared themselves for the recapture of Luanda and Benguela in 1648. From this year onwards, Massangano would again provide the capital (of the conquered territories) with corn and cassava flour and palm oil transported in vessels of small and medium size (such as pataxos, sumacas) and covered launches to the public yard, as well as pigs, sheep, kid-goats, chickens and loincloths, not to mention slaves, ivory and wax. Moreover, throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Massangano was the military centre providing assistance (people, supplies and weapons) to the fortresses of Kwanza, especially Muxima. Nonetheless, the growing political and economic importance of Luanda led to the decline of Massangano. In the early 19th century it still had about 10,900 inhabitants including 950 slaves lodged in two houses of stone and lime and in 600 shanties. In 1846 Lopes de Lima, besides mentioning the fortress and church, stated the existence of the same 600 houses in Massangano. Although its municipality was established in 1857, the town decreased in economic and administrative importance to Dondo, a fact witnessed by Henrique de Carvalho in 1885. At the time, malaria and small-pox were the most frequent causes of death; sleeping sickness was beginning to devastate the region. “With its hills crowned by noble buildings”, Massangano had ruins classified as National Monument in 1923. In 1680 some buildings were already dilapidated, nevertheless, it was abandonment in the 19th century that accelerated its ruin.

Aida Freudenthal

Military Architecture

Religious Architecture

Equipment and Infrastructures