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Ganga Zumba was the first of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares, or Angola Janga, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazilmarker. Zumba was a slave who escaped bondage on a sugar plantation and assumed his destiny as heir to the kingdom of Palmares and the title Ganga Zumba. Although some Portuguese documents give him the name Ganga Zumba, and this name is widely used today, the most important of the documents translates the name as "Great Lord" which is probably not correct. However, a letter written to him by the governor of Pernambuco in 1678 and now found in the Archives of the University of Coimbra, calls him "Ganazumba", which is a better translation of "Great Lord" (in Kimbundu) and thus was probably his name.

A quilombo or mocambo was a refuge of runaway slaves who were forcibly brought to Brazil mainly from Angolamarker that escaped their bondage and fled into the interior of Brazil to the mountainous region of Pernambuco. As their numbers increased, they formed maroon settlements, called mocambos.

Gradually as many as ten separate mocambos had formed and ultimately coalesced into a confederation called the Quilombo of Palmares, or Angola Janga, under a king, Ganga Zumba or Ganazumba, who may have been elected by the leaders of the constituent mocambos. Ganga Zumba, who ruled the biggest of the villages, Cerro dos Macacos, presided the mocambo's chief council and was considered the King of Palmares. The nine other settlements were headed by brothers, sons, or nephews of Gunga Zumba. Zumbi was chief of one community and his brother, Andalaquituche, headed another.

By the 1670s, Ganga Zumba had a palace, three wives, guards, ministers, and devoted subjects at his royal compound called Macaco. Macaco comes from the name of an animal (monkey) that was killed on the site. The compound consisted of 1,500 houses which housed his family, guards, and officials, all of which were considered royalty. He was given the respect of a Monarch and the honor of a Lord.(Kent)

In 1678 Zumba accepted a peace treaty offered by the Portuguese Governor of Pernambuco, which required that the Palmarinos relocate to Cuca├║ Valley. The treaty was challenged by Zumbi, one of Ganga Zumba's nephews, who led a revolt against him. In the confusion that followed, Ganga Zumba was poisoned, mostly 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 Cucau Valley were re-enslaved by the Portuguese. Resistance to the Portuguese then continued under Zumbi.

The Brazilian film 'Ganga Zumba' was made in 1963 but was not released until 1972 because there was a military coup in Brazil in 1964, and films about revolutions, even those taking place in the 17th century, were considered politically dangerous. The film is based on Joao Felicio dos Santos' novel, and focuses on a black slave who ends up in Palmares. The film is about black liberation and keeps a black racial perspective. (Stam)


  • Slow Fade to Afro: The Black Presence in Brazilian Cinema
Robert StamFilm Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 2. (Winter, 1982-1983), pp. 16-32.Stable URL:

  • Palmares: An African State in Brazil
R. K. KentThe Journal of African History, Vol. 6, No. 2. (1965), pp. 161-175.Stable URL:

  • Zumbi and the Republic of Os Palmares
Irene DiggsPhylon (1940-1956), Vol. 14, No. 1. (1st Qtr., 1953), pp. 62-70.Stable URL:

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