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Traversa Africa

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 10 November 2007

During the nineteenth century, as the interior of Africa was being explored by Europeans, many Africans were employed as porters, gun-bearers, cooks, servants, interpreters and guides. Some British expedition leaders, like Livingstone, Stanley, Burton and Speke, took with them members of a group of formerly enslaved Africans called the Bombay Africans.

These were natives of East Africa who had been sold into slavery as children and transported to India; once liberated, they often ended up in Mumbai orphanages where they were recruited to join the expeditions. They consequently became some of the most travelled people in Africa; being amongst the first to cross the continent, discover the great African lakes and the source of the Nile. One even founded the town of Leopoldville, now the Congolese capital, Kinshasa.

John McCarthy is joined by historian Cliff Pereira, author Alexander Maitland to discuss this fascinating but overlooked aspect of the exploration of what was then called darkest Africa; Fran Sandham recounts his walk across the continent - a feat known as the traversa.


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