Mungo Park was a Scottish explorer of West Africa. He is renowned to be the first successful explorer of Africa and set a precedent for all who followed in his footsteps. Mungo set out on two separate journeys in which he detailed his accounts with the people he encountered and the hardships he experienced along the way. He wrote a book called, “Travels in the Interior of Africa” which allowed all Europeans to get a glimpse of what the Western African nations were like. On his second journey, Mungo set out to prove that the Niger and Congo Rivers merged into one river. Although he died before proving his theory, he learned about the cultures and personalities of the African people along with the terrain of which he traveled that helped future explorers with their endeavors.
In his first journey, Mungo met African people that both feared him and were enamored with him. The ones enamored with him wanted to know more about European society and what happened to Africans who crossed the salt water to Europe. “They were all very inquisitive, but they viewed me at first with looks of horror, and repeatedly asked if my countrymen were cannibals. They were very desirous to know what became of the slaves after they had crossed the salt water.” This fear of Mungo eventually led to him being captured by an Arab Chief named Ali. Chief Ali held Mungo captive for four moths forcing him to work for their nation. Eventually, Mungo was able to escape on horseback and continue upon his journey where he was the first European to reach the Niger River. Mungo fell ill in the town of Kamalia and accredits his recovery to the natives who nursed him back to health. Eventually he returned home, after being thought dead, and his accounts of Western Africa brought great hope and enthusiasm to Europe. The main thing Park learned is that, “whatever difference there is between the negro and European, in the conformation of the nose, and the colour of the skin, there is none in the genuine sympathies and characteristic feelings of our common nature.”
On his second journey, Mungo set out to prove that the Nile River and Congo River connected to form one river. He was invited by the government to captain a ship and lead his crew to explore Niger. The expedition started late due to the rainy season and when it began, he was only left with 11 members of his crew due to a fever that struck his men. Once Park reached Bamako, he gained permission from a local ruler to build a boat from two converted canoes. He attempted to complete his travels along the untouched area of the Niger River on this makeshift boat. The locals believed he was a danger to them therefore, he attempted to stay away from the shore. If a local tribe were to go near him and his men, he would shoot first and kill these tribes. He was then seen as a threat and tribes along the rivers would notify each other of a dangerous European man flowing through the river. After being attacked by Native African canoers, Park was forced to jump into the river in attempts to escape. He never resurfaced and drowned to his death.
To honor Mungo Park, The Mungo Park house was built in 1886 by the Royal Niger Company. It was built by the British who colonized Nigeria at the time. This house was the first headquarters of the Royal Niger Company and Nigeria’s first political headquarters in 1900. This house is recognized as a National Monument. It was originally built for business of Palm Kernal. It also was used by government organizations, local and Delta State government Orphanages, Women Development Centre, Water Board and now Monument for keeping relics and artifacts to entertain both foreigners and locals. Nowadays, you can go to this national monument and receive a tour along with visiting the art gallery that is attached to it. Numerous historians will visit this site to get a glimpse of the history of Mungo Park and European influence in Africa.
The house is made from palm wood following in its horizonal and vertical patterns. Recent accounts show that it is not being maintained and is falling apart. Local officials would like to renovate the house however, they want to keep the original ambience of the house. It serves as a very important local site. It. “holds fond memories for residents of the 'big heart.' It is reputed to be named after one of the founders of Asaba. It is a commercial beehive that hosts the now rested Asaba textile mills, the Grand Hotel, monuments attesting to the presence of colonial overlords in the pre independence era, and other majestic looking historical buildings.” The town of Asaba rallies upon this site as it tells the history of their people and gives the town a sense of purpose.
It is an important site as it, “tells the story of the inter play between Western influences and African culture, including the multiple tales of the numerous conflicts, particularly that of trade and investment in pre-colonial era.” The house represents the dawn of European influence among African nations. It represents the spark of trade between European and African nations along with the European cultures that would be brought upon the African people. This European culture brought to Africa attempted to develop the nation and bring about economic prosperity. On the contrary, the house also symbolizes conflicts such as the Exploitation that would later come. Europeans tried to rid of African culture, forcing the European culture upon the Native Africans. In addition, Europeans began to seize control over the African lands to abuse their resources along with cultural & religious influences. Mungo Parks conquest paved the way for European settlements along the West Coast of Africa. These settlements first came from the Portuguese in which they began the trans-Atlantic slave trade. They took all the goods Africa had to offer and then brought slaves from Africa to the New World. Without Mungo Parks conquest, this would not have been possible. This house signifies the first European exploration of Western Africa and all that would come in the future.