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Intrepid hero rediscovered

The bicentenary of Livingstone's birth will be marked by an exhibition about his life and achievements. Douglas Blane reports

The bicentenary of Livingstone's birth will be marked by an exhibition about his life and achievements. Douglas Blane reports

David Livingstone is much less popular in schools than he once was, because we are more critical of empire now. But to see the explorer as a tool of commerce, colonialism and Christianity is to misunderstand the man and his mission, says Nat Edwards, project leader for the bicentenary of his birth in 2012.

"Livingstone played a huge part in abolishing the slave trade. Kenneth Kaunda, the former president of Zambia, described him as `the first African freedom fighter'."

Born on 19 March 1813 in a single-room tenement in Blantyre - now the heart of the David Livingstone Centre - the boy grew into a man who would travel 30,000 miles through jungles, swamps and deserts, survive attacks by guns, spears and lions and fight off many tropical diseases, until they finally got him at the age of 60.

"The first celebration of the bicentenary is a new exhibition opening in November this year at the National Museum of Scotland," says Mr Edwards.

"Following that, we'll be holding lots of events throughout the year, in Edinburgh, Glasgow and of course at the centre in Blantyre. There is so much more here than just the place Livingstone was born."

Set in 20 acres of parkland, the centre holds, displays and interprets many of his belongings, including navigating instruments, expedition equipment, original diaries and notebooks, and even the red shirt the explorer wore when Stanley uttered the immortal words "Dr Livingstone, I presume."

Talks, time capsules, a symposium, an arts festival and an illustrated paperback on the man, the myth and his legacy are among the highlights of the bicentenary that have already been announced. But watch this space, says Mr Edwards. "There is a lot more in the planning."

Livingstone 200: www.davidlivingstone200.orgindex.php

Links to a wealth of online resources on Livingstone are available at: www.davidlivingstone200.orglinks.php.

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