THE 200th anniversary of Dr David Livingstone’s birth is to be marked in his beloved Zambia with a cultural festival to celebrate the Scots explorer’s contribution to the country, it was revealed yesterday.
The bicentenary will be celebrated near Victoria Falls, the natural wonder which Dr Livingstone reached in 1855 and brought to the attention of Europe for the first time.
The celebration will continue on the banks of the Zambezi river, which the missionary, from Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, investigated several times as he sought to – as he saw it – civilise Africa.
The Victoria Falls Bridge will host the festivities, with Masai warriors, dancers and drummers gathering before continuing on to Livingstone Island.
A street carnival will make its way through the town named after the pioneer, with organisers promising rhythm, colour and dancing to toast the Victorian and his work in medicine, education and the abolition of slavery.
The Livingstone International Cultural Arts Festival follows commemorative events in the UK in March, which included a formal dinner at Edinburgh Castle for Joyce Banda, president of Malawi, one of a number of countries where Dr Livingstone worked to dismantle key slave routes.
The festival in Zambia, which takes place on 21-22 June, aims to capitalise on interest in Dr Livingstone and make his namesake town a tourist destination.
Organiser Belinda Hodge said: “There will be a wonderful cacophony of music, drums and dancing as the street carnival winds its way slowly up through the centre of Livingstone on Friday. This will be an eye-catching extravaganza for all to enjoy.”
Ms Hodge said representatives of 15 countries had been invited to the event, including the Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, India and South Korea, as well as the UK.
Many Zambian institutions date from the Livingstone era and descendants from his wife’s family still live in the country.
The explorer was born in Blantyre on 19 March, 1813, and died in north-eastern Zambia on 1 May, 1873. The cultural festival also features community projects, some with links to Scotland, to promote his legacy.
West Lothian and Lanarkshire schools have been working on projects with pupils in Zambia, with young people connected through storytelling, arts and cultural exchanges.
One project, run by artist and musician Ewan McVicar, sees children swap pictures of birds that start their lives in Scotland and fly to the warmer climes of Africa for winter.
Mr McVicar has also worked with children in Livingston, West Lothian, on the explorer’s close friendship with James “Paraffin” Young – who started the shale oil industry in the area in the 1850s.
The two met at Anderson’s University in Glasgow – later to become Strathclyde University – and Dr Young was a lifelong supporter of his work.
When Dr Livingstone became lost in Africa, it was Dr Young who paid for the expedition to recover his body.
Mr McVicar said: “Livingstone’s story is endlessly fascinating and children love it. There are just so many angles to him.”
To mark Dr Livingstone’s work as a doctor, an exchange scheme with Livingstone Hospital in Zambia will allow a clinical officer and a junior doctor to go to Scotland to gain experience.
Published by The Scotsman, UK