By Olabode Aderemi Temitayo
Oga Don Jazzy, (Tuale) when you go marry, shebi u geti money,why u dey dulling, yesterday orobo, today na lepa, Shey na omo dudu, abomo pupa, no kill yourself, pick one already, wetin u dey find like you won Discover Mungo Park, Shey u won discover Mungo Park, Discover Mungo Park….#mouth drumming and mouth beat # “geran geran gan gan gen, geran geran gan gan gen. You all know this raving Korede Bello song where he incites a lot of funny pranks at some people about marriage and hustling, well something hillarious happened recently that make me to do a curious digging into history and what I found will leave you stunned…….
Na jeje I dey go on my own this morning, when a loud blast jolt me back to life from my self-indulge fantasy which has been my amazing grace from my joblessness and unemployment-caused depression. I was about to cross over from my street to the bus-stop, it was a conventional song-request programme that is a characteristics of all Lagos radio stations, the OAP was asking the caller to make a request and when she asked for Mungo Park by Korede Bello, the OAP asked the caller if she won discover Mungo Park which raised a lot of laughter and this piqued my interest.
What is Mungo Park or Who is Mungo Park?
Firstly, you need to understand that Mungo Park is not a place but a person, a famous explorer in the 18th Century that disappeared while he was searching for a proverbial city of gold called Tellem. Mungo Park was born in Selkirkshire, Scotland, at Foulshiels on the Yarrow Water, near Selkirk, on a tenant farm which his father rented from the Duke of Buccleuch. He was the seventh in a family of thirteen. Although tenant farmers, the Parks were relatively well-off. They were able to pay for Park to receive a good education, and Park’s father died leaving property valued at £3,000 (equivalent to $218,445 in 2015). His parents had originally intended him for the Church.
He was educated at home before attending Selkirk grammar school. At the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to Thomas Anderson, a surgeon in Selkirk. During his apprenticeship, Park became friends with Anderson’s son Alexander and was introduced to Anderson’s daughter Allison, who would later become his wife.
In October 1788, Park enrolled at the University of Edinburgh, attending for four sessions studying medicine and botany. Notably, during his time at university, he spent a year in the natural history course taught by Professor John Walker. After completing his studies, he spent a summer in the Scottish Highlands, engaged in botanical fieldwork with his brother-in-law, James Dickson, a gardener and seed merchant in Covent Garden. In 1788 Dickson and Sir Joseph Banks had founded the London Linnean Society.
In 1791, Park completed his medical studies at University of Edinburgh. Through a recommendation by Banks, he obtained the post of assistant surgeon on board the East India Company’s ship Worcester. In February 1793 the Worcester sailed to Benkulen in Sumatra. Before departing, Park wrote his friend Alexander Anderson in terms that reflect his Calvinist upbringing:
“My hope is now approaching to a certainty. If I be deceived, may God alone put me right, for I would rather die in the delusion than wake to all the joys of earth. May the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart, my dear friend, and if I ever see my native land again, may I rather see the green sod on your grave than see you anything but a Christian.”
On his return in 1794, Park gave a lecture to the Linnaean Society, describing eight new Sumatran fish. The paper was not published until three years later. He also presented Banks with various rare Sumatran plants.
The Mystery of Mungo Park
As the Eighteenth Century drew to a close, European explorers turned their gaze toward one of the world’s last great unexplored regions: the heart of Africa. Though colonizing Europeans had been visiting coastal villages and establishing forts in Africa for over 300 years, little was known of the interior of the Dark Continent. Prior exploration attempts had been undone by disease, hostile tribes and large swaths of dense, unmapped jungle. But these obstacles only whetted the appetites of European explorers hoping to become the first white men to ford the River Niger, look upon the legendary city of Timbuktu, or walk the streets of Tellem, a city on the Niger said to be built entirely of gold.
One such intrepid soul was Mungo Park, a Scottish physician who had been bitten by the exploring bug while in his twenties. In 1795, Park, with the support of England’s Africa Society, set off in search of the Niger and the fabled city of Tellem. Park and his team of 30 men sailed down the east coast of Africa to the mouth of the River Gambia, where the English had established a fort. After a trip down the Gambia and an overland trek through dense jungle, the team reached the Niger. By then, however, Park had run out of money and was forced to return to England without finding Tellem.
Mungo Park spent the next decade raising funds and organizing a team for a second expedition to Tellem. Finally, in 1805, the Scotsmen embarked from England, fully confident in his mission’s success. Park and his team returned to the Niger, where they piled into canoes and paddled south in search of Tellem. None of them were ever heard from again.
Mungo Park’s disappearance was big news back in England, where the public had developed a fascination with explorations in Africa. A rescue mission was quickly put together under the direction of Africa Society director Joseph Langley. Langley and his team traced Park’s route, sailing up the Gambia and crossing the jungle to get to the Niger. At the end of the second day on the river, the team paddled around a bend and laid eyes on the legendary city of Tellem. In his 1808 account of the mission, Dark River, Langley recalls his team’s disappointment upon finding that, far from being a city of gold, Tellem was a small village constructed of mud. As the team drifted closer, they saw dozens of Africans emerging from their homes and walking towards them with a peculiar, stiff-legged gait. In his account of the trip, Langley remembers being initially heartened by the sight of the villagers: “They wore brightly-coloured garments and the broadest of smiles.”
But as he got closer, Langley realized that what he had mistaken for smiles were actually the grimaces of flesh-hungry zombies: the entire village had been transformed. Langley ordered an immediate retreat, but the canoes became swamped in the rapids. As the voracious zombies waded into the river, Langley was swept into the current and carried several miles downriver. He eventually reached a friendly village; the villagers took him to the mouth of the Niger, where he was picked up by a British ship.
Though Langley had gone further into Africa than any white man before him, he found himself the subject of scorn upon his return to London, where his zombie story was derided as a self-serving excuse for a failure in leadership. However, later accounts from the Asante tribes of East Africa lent support to Langley’s account. Denkyira, the Asante king, informed the English garrison in Gambia that he had led a raid on Tellem and destroyed many zombies, including several white men. The king presented the garrison commander with the clothes and personal effects of these men. Among the items was Park’s diary, with its ominous last entry: “Tomorrow, we should reach Tellem, a city that has haunted my dreams since I was a child. I cannot sleep for the excitement.”
So, Dear brothers and sisters, do quick and either take that sister down the aisle or follow that brother down the aisle….
By Olabode Aderemi Temitayo