Nzambi a Mpungu

Nzambi a Mpungu is the Kongolese name for a high creator god. The idea of such a god spread from Central Africa into other Kongo related religions.[1]

Nzambi a Mpungu
Panneau Holo-Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale.jpg
Nzambi santu sculpture probably recalling Christ on the cross
Venerated inKongo religion and it derivatives Palo, Candomblé Bantu, and Kumina.


He is mentioned as the name for God as early as the early sixteenth century by Portuguese visitors to the Kingdom of Kongo. This deity has been known as the high and creator god from before this time until today.

European missionaries along with Kongo intellectuals (including King Afonso I of Kongo) set out to render European Christian religious concepts into Kikongo and they chose this name to represent God. Jesuit missionaries in the 1540s noted the acceptance of this relationship as well, and it was probably included in the now lost catechism produced by Carmelites in Kikongo in 1557. Certainly it was used for God in the catechism of 1624, a translation by the "best masters of the church" in Kongo under the supervision of the Jesuit priest Mateus Cardoso.

It is not clear if the elevation of Nzambi a Mpungu to the status of creator god and equivalent to the Christian God by priests and missionaries was the reason that he is regarded as such by modern Kongo cosmology, or whether he was always considered the creator. However, in the Kingdom of Loango, a Kikongo-speaking area that never accepted Christianity as its national religion, reports by Dutch visitors also gave this as the name for God.


Kongo mythologyEdit

Nzambi a Mpungu is the creator of the universe. After creation he became bored with the world and mostly withdrew from it. However, Nzambi Mpungu still animates the natural occurrences of the world. Another related deity is Nzambi the god of Earth's mystery. She was sent to Earth by Nzambi Mpungu who then is married to him making him the father of all creation. Nzambi gave the humanity its laws, arts, and games, as well as settled quarrels between animals. She would also steal some of Nzambi Mpungu's fire.[1]

Candomblé BantuEdit

In the religion of Candomblé Bantu, Nzambi is the "sovereign master". He created the earth and then withdrew from the world. Nzambi Mpungu remains responsible for rainfall and health.[2]


In the religion of Kumina there is a high creator god is known as "King Zombi" which is a derivative of Nzambi Mpungu.[3]


In the religion of Palo, "Nzambi" is the god who created the universe and animates it. Nzambi resides in all natural things, and the spirits of the dead. Long deceased ancestors who have become spirits will over a long period of time become enveloped in the natural elements and thus Nzambi himself. The natural powers of Nzambi can be harnessed by a Nganga and in common ceremonies.[4]


  1. ^ a b Asante, Molefi; Mazama, Ama (2009). Encyclopedia of African Religion, Volume 1. ISBN 9781412936361.
  2. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete; Mazama, Ama, eds. (2009). "Creation and Cosmology". Encyclopedia of African Religion.
  3. ^ Nathaniel Samuel Murrell (2010). Afro-Caribbean Religions: An Introduction to Their Historical, Cultural, and Sacred Traditions. Temple University Press. ISBN 9781439901755.
  4. ^ Appiah, Anthony; Gates, Henry (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. ISBN 9780195170559.
  • Thornton, John K. "The Development of an African Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Kongo, 1491–1750," Journal of African History 25 (1984)