Widely regarded as the King of Palmares or Quilombo dos Palmares, Ganga Zumba was from a royal family of the Kongo kingdom whose mother was Princess Aqualtune Ezgondidu Mahamud da Silva Santos of Kongo.
Ganga Zumba was believed to have been captured by the Portuguese during the Battle of Mbwila. During the battle of Mbwila that occurred on the 29th of October 1665, Ganga Zumba’s grandfather, King Antonio I of Kongo, was beheaded. Over 5000 men were killed, the king’s two sons were captured, his daughter, Aqualtune, her two sons – Ganga and Zona, and her daughter, Sabina, were among the captives, including the Kongo court officials, 400 nobles, and 95 chiefs.
They were chained and shipped off to Spanish America while Ganga, his brother, and sister were sent to work at the Santa Rita plantation at Pernambuco, northeast of Brazil.
Ganga and some slaves escaped to Palmares, a fugitive community of escaped slaves, Pernambuco, Brazil. After the escape, they continued to increase in population, creating a maroon community. Later on, a confederation was created, and the Quilombo dos Palmares was formed and controlled by an elected king, Ganga Zumba ruled Cerro dos Macacos. At the same time, men from his lineage were made chiefs over other communities.
Ganga Zumba single-handedly developed Macaco (named after a monkey killed in the region) as a governance and alliance center. By 1670, he has had a palace, married three wives, guards, ministers, secret officials, and families. Macaco had 1,500 houses built for his loyal. He was given the title of a Monarch, and the honor of a lord. He was remembered for his role – helping to rescue African slaves working in a plantation and bringing them to Palmares.
He mostly fought hard against the attacking forces of the Europeans. King Ganga lost his son in a battle he had with the colonial masters in 1677, in which his two sons were captured and taken away as slaves.
In 1678, the then Portuguese governor of Pernambuco offered a peace treaty to king Ganga who accepted the condition that the Palmares would move to Cucau Valley, so his people will be in peace. He will be on friendly terms with the colonial rulers. His nephew Zumbi, countered the proposal and planned a coup. Ganga Zumba was poisoned in the same year while Zumbi assumed the leader’s role and continued fighting the Portuguese against oppression and slavery. Those who left for Cucau Valley were recaptured and enslaved.