November 23, 2012 / 4:58 PM / 6 years ago

Scotland, Africa fete explorer Livingstone on 200th

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland’s National Museum raised the curtain this week on celebrations marking the bicentenary of the birth of the country’s most renowned African explorer, David Livingstone, in conjunction with museums in Malawi and Zambia.

Livingstone’s explorations took him across Africa and he was the first white man to see the majestic Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Edinburgh exhibition follows his career from his birth on March 19, 1813, in Blantyre, eight miles from Glasgow, his early days working in the town’s cotton mill, medical studies in Glasgow, his training as a medical missionary and the African adventures that made him a national hero in Britain.

One of the more famous African meetings took place in November 1871 between Livingstone and the Welsh-American explorer and journalist Henry Morton Stanley.

Stanley had been hired by the New York Herald newspaper to track down the missing Livingstone. They met near the shore of Lake Tanganyika where Stanley has been attributed with the greeting: “Dr Livingstone, I presume.”

Livingstone died worn-out by hardship and ill health on his final expedition in central Africa on May 1, 1873. His heart was buried in Africa and his body in London’s Westminster Abbey.

Lovemore Mazibuko, director of museums of Malawi, said Livingstone was still venerated in southern Africa for his work as a missionary, doctor and educator, and above all for his bitter opposition to the slave trade prevalent at the time and his vision for legitimate trade and commerce for the region.

“He brought an end to the slave trade and in that sense he is regarded as a liberator...he changed people’s perception on the way people related to one another irrespective of tribe, irrespective of their color, irrespective of their social status,” Mazibuko told Reuters at the opening of the exhibition which runs to April 7 next year.

An exhibition on Livingstone will also be held at the Malawian town of Blantyre next year, the museum director said.

Friday Mufuzi of the Livingstone Museum close to the Victoria Falls noted Zambia had rid itself of most colonial names after it gained independence from Britain in the mid-20th century — apart from Livingstone, who is still regarded as an “iconic figure” in the country.

Coincidental with the exhibition, Scottish writer Julie Davidson has published a book on the life and travels of Livingstone’s wife Mary, “Looking for Mrs Livingstone” (published by St Andrews Press).

Her father the Scottish missionary Robert Moffat, during a visit home in 1839, inspired Livingstone to dedicate his life to mission work in Africa.

Mary, the first of 10 Moffat children born in Africa, nursed Livingstone back to health after he was badly mauled by a lion, married him in 1845 and shared his hardships in the African interior during which she gave birth to six children before she died of malaria in 1862.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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