The Imbangala were initially a band of marauders who would later become based out of the Kingdom of Kasanje. While it was a smaller group it would later become one of the major power shifters in Angola.
The group moved into the Angola region sometime during the 16th century. They would establish their kingdom during the earlier part of the 1620s. As far as where they came from, the belief is that the Imbangala originated out of Central Africa or the Kingdom of Lunda within the northern parts of Angola and Zambia.
Since they weren’t formally documented until the 17th century, their origins remain in the air. This means how they came to be a marauding people isn’t known. What is known is that when they made their presence known in Angola, they were based around the coastal area and not too far from the Kwanza River.
In one written account of the tribe, it was said that they were originally a part of a military force from a land called “Elembe.” The actual origin could be a combination of all stories since the Imbangala were heavily military-based, made their wealth through war, and were constantly battling other groups in the region.
Imbangala Death Culture
Besides the military focus of the group, there was also an anti-family approach to its society. Being initiated as Imbangala was extremely important as opposed to being born into the group. As a result, women had to have their children outside of a camp and bring them in to be raised and initiated. If a child was born in a camp they were killed.
Initiation involved combat training or several years with a collar. A child wasn’t recognized as a part of the tribe until they killed a man in one-on-one battle. Death was a common part of everyday life as the Imbangala also practiced cannibalism. The other method to keep their military staffed was to take in child captives and integrate them into the lifestyle.
Finally, there was maji a samba and yijila. Maji a samba was a salve that the Imbangala covered themselves in that was supposed to make the nugnza–warriors–invincible. This salve only worked if they followed through with yijila without fear or hesitation. Yijila was the warrior code that encouraged and was “powered” by the Imbangala’s death culture.