David Livingstone was the first European to set eyes on Victoria Falls
I descended the narrow steps below St Monica’s Guesthouse and found myself in a small underground vault hewn out of the rock with hefty wooden beams covering it. In the semi-darkness just ahead was a large waist high stone platform, bolted to which were lengths of rusting iron chain. It was these that held in place its human cargo. I was in Stone Town, on the island of Zanzibar, following some of the physical remnants of the slave trade.
The cross in Christ Church Cathedral, Stone Town, Zanzibar
A two minute walk from here I found myself staring at an incongruous sight: an English-style Anglican cathedral called “Christ Church”. It was built over the island’s largest slave market, the alter apparently positioned over the exact spot where the whipping-post stood. I went in and on the left-hand side against the fourth pillar was a large wooden cross with a simple inscription. It read: “This crucifix is made from the wood of the tree under which Dr Livingstone died at Chitambo village, Hala, Zambia 1873, and under which his heart buried [sic].”
I’d been travelling in Africa for six months, first down the continent’s French-speaking western side, through places like Mauritania, Benin, Ghana and Nigeria. Now I was journeying down its eastern flank, passing through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and into the game-rich parts so beloved by the wildlife documentary makers, places like Kenya and Tanzania.
Seeing this cross and reading its message was my first tangible connection to the great Victorian explorer, missionary and slave trade abolitionist, David Livingstone. A few weeks later our paths would cross again, quite literally, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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