Angola is seeking to get the United Nation’s cultural organisation, UNESCO, to recognize the ancient city of Mbanza Congo as a world heritage site. According to Fox News, Angola’s culture ministry hosted a team of experts this week who discussed the UNESCO bid in the ancient town. The ministry also exhibited documents related to the ancient Congo kingdom in Angola’s capital Luanda. The exhibition includes a letter written in 1493 in which the king of Portugal ordered that clothing should be presented to the Congo king.
Mbanza Congo, also spelled Mbanza Kongo, is a city in north western Angola situated on a low plateau about 100 miles southeast of Nóqui, the nearest point on the Congo River. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom from about 1390 until 1914, when the kingdom was broken up and absorbed into the Portuguese colony of Angola.
Mbanza Congo is regarded as the spiritual home of most Congo speaking people. After contact with the Portuguese in the 15th century, the kingdom was largely converted to Christianity and was renamed São Salvador do Congo in the mid-to-late 16th century.
It would later grow to become one of the largest cities in precolonial Africa. At its peak in the 17th century, it had a population exceeding 30,000, however, a string of civil wars in the 1660s led to the complete abandonment of the city by 1678.
In 1705, religious leader Beatriz Kimpa Vita initiated a number of efforts to rebuild the city, work which would later be completed by King Pedro IV. The city was again renamed Mbanza Congo after Angola attained its independence from Portugal in 1975. The city is now home to the Kongo Kingdom Museum.
UNESCO world heritage sites are internationally protected locations considered to be important to the collective interest of humanity. The sites are selected on the basis of having a cultural, scientific, or historical significance and they often symbolize a remarkable feat of human endeavour.
BY MARK BABATUNDE